WatchOut is a system designed to help people get help when they're in danger. We were particularly inspired by the idea of helping victims of domestic abuse -- in many cases, it is difficult for them to get help before and during an attack, and we thought of WatchOut as a way to help these people get the help they deserve. What's more, we were also inspired by how WatchOut could be used to make people feel more safe in general. As four women, we have all had uncomfortable experiences when having a wearable tech system, quite literally watching out for us and contacting appropriate people should there be an emergency, would have been so, so welcome. Introducing WatchOut!
What it does
WatchOut is a safety system with a Pebble smartwatch watchapp, iPhone app, external sensor (microphone)/circuitry, Firebase database. Since smartwatches come with accelerometers, we tapped into that data to code an app that can sense when an arm (that the watch is on) moves upward into a defensive position. In addition, we have a microphone that can sense when a loud distress noise is made. Together, these two data points in the app will be able to send a distress signal through the app and connect to third-party apps to send emergency messages to emergency contacts.
How we built it
We built it by integrating the different components together through connecting the PebbleWatch to the companion app on the phone using Objective-C on XCode to program the app and C to program the watchapp. Furthermore, we designed a microphone circuitry that connected to the online database Firebase as well as the companion iOS app developed. Finally, we developed a button that could connect to a third-party to send emergency messages automatically when triggered by motion and microphone.
Challenges we ran into
We ran into problems with the limited capabilities of PebbleWatch firmware, especially since firmware 1.0 does not contain real-time bidirectional communication capabilities, which would have been helpful for sending accelerometer data from the watch to the companion app on the phone. Furthermore, we ran into problems with the limited possibilities within iOS software development, specifically because Apple does not allow you to send automated messages using iMessage, meaning we would have had to use another application and performed authentication (which would have stretched much beyond our timeline). On the hardware side, the microphone sensor's voltage range did not match that of the Electric Imp. Also, dealing with the frequency of the audio signals and connecting the Elctric Imp to a Cloud database proved to be difficult.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are proud of the social reach of our app - with some fine-tuning, it may prove to serve incredibly beneficial for the safety of people in dangerous situations, particularly with respect to young girls and women facing threats of sexual assault and domestic violence. This was also our first hackathon and we were proud, as an all-girl team, to focus our efforts on expanding the rights and protection of women, especially in light of rampant university sexual assault cases and worldwide gender discrimination.
What we learned
Much of what we implemented was new to us -- as a team, we learned to design an iOS app, interact with Pebble smartwatch, use electric imp to collect data from a microphone, send to a Firebase database, and collaborate together as a team while dividing tasks to make deadlines.
What's next for WatchOut
Future steps for WatchOut revolve around increasing the sophistication of the integration. This includes moving it to a newer version of the firmware that would allow for easier data transfer from the smartwatch to the iOS app (and would specifically allow for the use of AppMessage that would facilitate bidirectional communication), using more information from the database, using the SOS button to text emergency contacts, expanding the software to other platforms (including the Android, which might prove friendlier to our project), transmitting GPS coordinates for the purpose of distribution to emergency contacts, and establishing a connection to Nest through which we would place markers in the footage if GPS coordinates showed the potential victim to be at home.