A startup based in Clayton, NC believes its Tiger Eye Security Sensor (TESS) system could be a game changer in the self defense industry—a cheap and effective way of both stopping attacks and providing actionable evidence for the prosecution of perpetrators.
March 6, 2015
Meet the Woman Behind IoT for Self-Defense
Clayton-based victims advocate invents a connected device to deter and prosecute assault
Founded by CJ Scarlet, an expert in crime victims issues and technology, Tiger Eye Sensor, Inc is a woman-owned enterprise that promises a comprehensive and completely hands-free personal security device designed to empower and offer a layer of security to women and men who often find themselves alone or in compromising positions.
Scarlet recently pitched her business at Triangle Tech Breakfast in Durham, demoing the product in public for the first time.
The TESS device itself is very small, about the size of three stacked quarters, and weighs only 11 grams, allowing it to easily attach to clothing, a handbag or outer garment. If a user screams or makes distressing noises, the device will activate, and—using Bluetooth radio— will automatically connect to the user’s phone, triggering cellular service to dial out to a monitoring center; all of this happens with no manual activation of any kind.
Scarlet has spent over 18 years working with victims of violent crimes. A survivor of a sexual assault herself, she holds a humanities master’s degree in human violence, and until 1998 was the director of victims issues for the NC Attorney General, where she developed the nation’s first statewide victim notification system.
She used those experiences extensively while shaping exactly how the TESS should perform both before, during and after an attack.
“I knew the device would need to be activated automatically, and that it would need a ‘natural’ response to set it off, like a scream,” she explained, adding that most competing devices need to be manually activated, and that “even if activation were by voice, such as a keycode, it’s impossible to know how a victim might react in a violent situation.”
The TESS is designed to take all the guesswork out in the event of an attack. Scarlet’s knowledge of victim’s issues led to the most significant long term prevention TESS can provide: the successful prosecution of violent perpetrators, who are often recidivists.
“Individual attacks can be extremely difficult to prove,” Scarlet says. “These are commonly he-said-she-said situations, victim’s memories are usually hazy or incomplete, and the potential for photos or audio of an attack is invaluable, because most attackers are repeat offenders.”
Scarlet says working with victims for most of her life has led her to want to prevent crimes from happening in the first place. Before founding Tiger Eye Sensor last year, she started The Healing Foundation, a team that works with humanitarian group worldwide, and in 2008 she launched the Kindness Cure Campaign, a national movement to perform acts of kindness.
“I started Tiger Eye Sensor after I read the book, Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter Diamandis, which is about how visionaries are using emerging technology to address humanity’s grand challenges, such as poverty, hunger, climate change. I was so inspired by the book, and thought about what I could do that would have a global impact. But, I was tired of dealing with crime after it occurred; I wanted to do something to keep it from happening at all. That led me to invent the Tiger Eye Security Sensor and form TES.”
Scarlet hopes to offer TESS this spring for around $149—though this amount could be lower if offered with monitoring service subscriptions. She hopes to secure contracts with home alarm system companies like CPI, Monitronics and Alarm Force, which would subsidize the cost of the device if users subscribe to their services.
Another revenue opportunity could be pendants or covers that make the TESS device more appealing to wear. As Scarlet says, if it doesn’t look good, “women won’t wear it,” and the company is currently working with Virginia Tech students to design fashionable accessories or displays for the device.
When asked what the biggest obstacle to going to market is, she is quick to answer, “funding.” The company has a goal to raise $1.5 million, with $60,000 collected so far from friends, family, small private donations and her own bank account. She also raised $5,000 through an Indiegogo campaign. In the coming months, she’ll target investors through the Triangle and those in Silicon Valley in hopes of raising a seed round.