David Caren was out running one morning when he had an unpleasant encounter with a stranger.
That encounter led to a discussion with his wife Ellen Caren, and an idea was born for the Run Angel — a smart safety wearable that not only emits a very loud alarm to attract attention in an emergency but also pairs with smartphone devices over Bluetooth to send out emergency alerts.
Mr Caren said: “I’m a runner who tends to go out early in the morning. I was on my own one morning when I was knocked to the ground by a man, a total stranger. I had passed a female jogger on her own just 10 seconds earlier and it just dawned on me how vulnerable we can be. Ellen had been talking about taking up running and this stark encounter really resonated with me.”
The couple, who live in Rochestown in Cork with their three young children, went online to see if there was any device that would set off an alarm if a person’s safety was compromised. They could find none.
Despite having no background in innovation technology, the Carens applied to enter the New Frontiers programme at the Rubicon Centre in Cork. New Frontiers is a six-month intensive programme focused on developing entrepreneurial abilities, equipping them with the skills to develop a sustainable business.
It targets high-potential entrepreneurs with the commitment and capability required to develop and deliver sustainable businesses. The Carens’ wearable device was then identified by Enterprise Ireland as a high-potential start-up.
Mr Caren said: “Sean O’Sullivan in the Local Enterprise Office was really helpful and encouraging and it gave us the impetus to go with our idea. We needed to build an acoustic chamber, which meant making something very small that would emit a very loud sound.”
Ellen Caren said it had not been an easy process but they had stuck with it. After much trial and error since the idea’s inception in 2013 and working with an extensive team of engineers, app developers, acoustic experts, industry mentors and security advisors, the Run Angel now boasts a 120dB high-pitched alarm when activated. That’s louder than standing in front of speakers at a summer festival.
Its companion iOS and Android app allow users to set up a guardian network providing peace of mind to family and friends who will be notified by SMS and email, showing the location and date and time of the wearer’s device.
The alarm can also be triggered directly from the app, and whenever a situation warrants it. Silent alerts can be sent to guardians without the alarm sounding on the device. An alert delay, history and disabling of alerts can also be customised within the app. It has a three-week battery life and a one-hour alarm.
The couple has enlisted former Miss Cork Katie O’Donoghue as its brand ambassador.
Ms Caren said: “It has been such a learning curve. We’re manufacturing a product but we don’t come from a tech background. We manufacture everything about the Run Angel in Ireland and the UK, simply because we wanted to ensure the quality of it.
“It is a rarity that a product like this can be made at home in Ireland. Enterprise Ireland like it because of that reason — it shows you can bring an idea to fruition at home.”
In a flooded market of wearable devices, the Carens are convinced that their Run Angel will stand out.
Mr Caren said: “You think about what kind of people will benefit from it — runners out on a morning jog, employees walking back to their vehicles at night or even walking home in the dark, those who might be going home after a night out, children partaking in sport. We’re convinced there is nothing like it on the market.”
The Run Angel’s potential was inadvertently tested recently when Mr Caren went over on his ankle while out running.
Despite it ending up as a minor injury, his wife was alerted to the injury via her phone and was there to greet her husband within minutes and get him home safely.
Ms Caren said now that the Run Angel is available to buy, she hoped it would inspire other would-be entrepreneurs: “That would be fantastic to see. If people felt inspired from our story and decided to get on with their idea, that really is a bonus. It can be done, it just takes a lot of hard work and patience. There are good people out there to help.”
Run Angel is compatible with most iOS iPhones, with support for bluetooth low energy, and with android phones running Android 4.4 and above with Bluetooth 4.0.
For more details see: Runangel.com.