One button device could be life-saver

By Anna Carrera

Published 07/02 2014 04:43PM

Updated 09/19 2014 05:20PM

Update: 4:02 pm, 9/19/14, Friday
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS -- A product thought up at the UI Research Park could get a big boost. Servabo has been picked as one of the Top Three Most Promising Start-ups by

The group is developing prototypes for a product which could alert family or police in case of emergency. It could be as small as a keychain. Creators get to pitch their idea in St. Louis next week and could win a $10,000 prize.
Original: 5:43 pm, 7/2/14, Wednesday
CHAMPAIGN -- Smartphone makers have developed a lot of technology when it comes to safety, but what can you do if you're in danger and someone takes your phone? WCIA-3's Anna Carrera talks to people trying to solve that problem.

They've developed a product called Shadow. With it, you can contact your family or the police at the click of a button even if you don't have your phone with you.

We've heard stories like this all too often: A student walking around a college campus gets mugged.

Nishana Ismail, co-founder of Servabo, says, "There has been a lot of concern about women's safety and that was something I was passionate about."

But, when it happened to Ismail's friend, it got personal.

Ismail says, "It was actually during the day. She was just taking a walk and then two people came behind her and took her purse."

She got together with Timothy Deppen and they created a company called Servabo. The title is derived from a Latin word meaning "to watch over."

Ismail says, "One day, we were sitting in Flat Top, on Green Street, having lunch and then, he was like, 'Okay, you know what? Let's just write these things down, the things that we want to do,' and we started writing on this napkin."

Deppen, co-founder of Servabo, says, "There's very clearly a need for technology to improve how we perceive safety and what we do to make ourselves safer."

They came up with Shadow. It's a small piece of plastic which could change your life if you're in harm's way.

Ismail says, "You just need to have one click and with this device, interfaces with a smartphone app and then you can sent out emergency notifications to friends, family and even emergency responders."

They've won a handful of awards for it the past year. This summer, they started a pilot program with University of Illinois Police.

Deppen says, "We're working with two detectives to help understand what specific needs they would have because it's not just me pressing a button. We also have to understand how are the emergency responders going to react."

All of those could be the pieces to a potentially life-saving product, so maybe those mugging stories could have different endings.

They plan to have some different options with the finished product, like, if you feel uncomfortable, you could push the button quickly and just send a message to your family. Or, if you hold it down longer, that means you're in serious danger and it would alert police.

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