Five years ago, Kimberly Calhoun received a phone call in the middle of the night. It was the police. Her sister had been a victim of domestic violence.
Over the next days and months, details emerged. There was a protective order in place, but it didn’t stop the violence from happening. “It was just a piece of paper,” says Calhoun. As she learned, violations of protective orders are common. Studies have found that almost half of domestic violence offenders re-abused the victim after the protective order was issued.
“During the trial, I sat in a courtroom and listened to why the authorities couldn’t protect my sister,” says Calhoun. It boiled down to two problems:
- By the time the protective order has been violated, it’s too late.
- There’s not enough admissible evidence to enforce the order and convict the offender.
Calhoun knew her sister’s life, and countless others, depended on finding a solution. Drawing on her 30 years of experience as a telecom engineer, Calhoun looked to technology – specifically, wearables, geolocation and the IoT – for an answer.
How it works
In partnership with SAS, Calhoun’s company, CAP Science developed wearables that would be worn by both the domestic violence victim and perpetrator to ensure that the offender stays a safe distance away from the victim. The sensors in the wearable (which looks like a FitBit), work with SAS software to continuously collect data and report on the offender’s location in real-time.
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“If the wearables are tampered with, police and the victim are immediately notified,” says Calhoun. “If the offender is going near somewhere he shouldn’t, or is in the victim’s vicinity, the police and the victim receive an alert.” The proactive alerts help officials respond in time to protect victims, and the recorded data is admissible evidence that can be used to convict offenders if they violate court orders, solving both problems identified by Calhoun in her sister’s case.
Filling in the gaps
When she began developing the solution, Calhoun knew there were gaps in communications technologies that would need to be filled. “The system had to allow the devices to communicate reliably even without the network. We had to ensure signal reliability. I knew we couldn’t depend on cell technology, because coverage is an issue, so I filled that gap. I looked at where GPS failed, and filled that gap. I layered and layered the technology until we had a failsafe system of communication to warn the victim and alert authorities,” says Calhoun.
Beyond domestic violence
Once Calhoun had developed the technology, she saw that there were three main uses:
- Enforcement of law – With tamper-resistant wearables, authorities can prevent violence, and possibly help manage behavior. “This technology can not only help address domestic violence, but could be used to monitor sex offenders, parolees – and could possibly be used as an opioid deterrent to keep drug offenders away from known drug dealers or areas,” says Calhoun.
- Emergency management – In case of terror attacks or natural disaster, wearables would help track where people are and determine how to best dispatch resources. “Authorities would be able to evaluate priorities because they’ll know what’s actually happening on the ground,” says Calhoun.
- Employees and public safety – In stadiums, sports arenas, prisons, airports, hospitals, nursing homes – wearables can alert employees if they’re getting too close to somewhere they shouldn’t, like a restricted or dangerous area. “They can also identify where all personnel are in an emergency situation,” says Calhoun. “And data from wearables, such as heart rate, can alert managers if an employee is in distress.”
Being reactive is exhaustive and expensive. We need to start investing time and resources into prevention. Kimberly Calhoun CEO and Founder CAP Science Labs, LLC
Calhoun’s working with the University of Southern Mississippi to combine drones with this technology, particularly for emergency management situations when everything goes off the grid.
“The drones could be used in a matrix to set up a backup communications network for officials,” says Calhoun. The drones can also be tagged to individual users, for example, to look for the officer’s wearable device. If a person goes unconscious, the device can send an alert. Drones can also deliver supplies, and, equipped with cameras, they can provide visual situational intelligence.
“Being reactive is exhaustive and expensive,” says Calhoun. “We need to start investing time and resources into prevention.”