Emergencies are not planned, phone calls and panic buttons are the usual solutions in these circumstances. Despite their change and evolution to more modern versions, their principles for action have fundamentally remained the same, relying on the user for them to work.
What if the user is unable to press the button or make the phone call?
Agatha (previously Salus) is a mobile application for Apple Watch and iPhone, able to send an alert message with geo-location to emergency services and next of kin, without the need of human interaction.
The app takes advantage of the built-in sensors on these devices, to measure movement, acceleration and heart-rate, and build patterns that allow it to understand when the user can be at risk, automatically triggering the alert in case they are unable to.
It aims to improve safety for runners, cyclists and active lifestyle individuals while offering peace of mind for them and their families, by speeding up response times, and in case of life-threatening scenarios, improve chances of survival.
I am the founder and only member of the project, turning this idea into a startup that I lead for over 3 years.
My activities spread through all areas of the startup: Product, Operations, Business and Customers.
User and Market research
Prototyping: Low & High Fidelity
UI & UX: Apple Watch, iPhone and Website
Architecture: High Level Design
UNDERSTANDING THE USERS
At the beginning of the project, there were several possible use-cases, and user groups. Proto-personas were created from first-hand data collected through personal experiences as runner, observation, and numerous interactions in the form of conversations, informal interviews and stories shared with me.
As a startup looking for market fit, the process has always been very interactive, exploratory and dynamic; with a great amount of input from potential users, constantly looking to validate assumptions and gather data that could support or deny the rationale behind the product.
One of the key learnings from the carried research was, gaining a clear understanding of the way people think about and approach emergencies or situations that, in theory, could represent a serious risk.
Overall, people don't tend to think they can be in a compromised position and, if given the case, they also believe they would be able to handle it by themselves.
This represented a serious challenge for the product, as it defeated its ethos. At this point, Agatha was a solution to a problem people didn't consider as such.
However, additional and more specific research allowed to narrow the scope and identify two groups that seemed compelled and suggested solutions to their problem that positively validated Agatha's value proposition.
The two groups were:
Runners affected directly or indirectly by an assault episode
I run alone mainly, but as a female, I do feel more vulnerable at night even in a small group.
WHAT THEY SAID
You need something that is more accessible than that (Smart Phone), like a button on your wrist or something. Otherwise, you can’t stop to get your phone out and open an app.
It would be small and easily accessible, maybe something that looks like a Fitbit. Or it could be an extra function that you get on a Fitbit or similar device.
Something I could press, a button that can let people know, or something that would alert them and they could call at least.
BREAKING DOWN THE PROCESS
The research and development of the project comprised different stages over a period of more than 2.5 years.
From an academic research to interviews, prototyping and testing, and numerous engagements with a varied demographic that was narrowed down along the way; this discovery process was carried in parallel and in informed other activities on the business and operations side of the project.
Additionally to this, harnessing the power of social media was key during the latest stages of the research (interviews & surveys), helping to reach a diverse and significant number of participants in a fast and direct fashion.
From running crews all over the world (Turkey, United States, Italy, Scotland and England), Olympic athletes, bloggers and even world-class brands like Adidas, insightful information was gathered that helped to refine the product, and shape its value proposition to better server potential users.
Overall, the majority of people tend to think they will be able to handle any problems in case of an emergency, no matter the circumstances. Almost no one thinks something could happen to them.
TITLE OF THE CALLOUT BLOCK
Only those that have been affected in the past by these type of circumstances would feel threatened, vulnerable or prone to a dangerous situation would consider taking the necessary measures to prevent it. This rationale could extend to friends and/or family members.
Women tend to be more vocal about the topic; demonstrating more self-awareness than men, while also considering themselves as more vulnerable, especially when alone.
Men, in the majority of the cases, tend to not to perceive themselves as vulnerable in the same scenarios as women. They also stated confidence that they would be able to handle the situation by themselves. Moreover, this can also open an additional assumption, which is, if due to social stereotypes men are not willing to admit their concerns (if any).
Finally, I found a similarity between the product (Agatha) and the rationale behind insurance services. As the app fundamentally follows the same principle as the latter.
Insurance companies sell their products under the premise of providing protection to people if something wrong, major and unexpected happens; something that could cause a major disruption to the daily life of a person or others in the family both physically or psychologically, as well as for precious (and/or expensive) items like houses, cars, phones, laptops, etc; or with great emotional attachment, like pets or their own lives.
At the core, these are all situations that no one wants to ever face, but that they all know could, hence the subscription to an insurance is aimed to provide peace of mind. The premise of the app is the same, and therefore, this type of approach could represent its best way to enter the market.