Up and running... device helps keep women safe

Women can often feel vulnerable when out running alone, but a Douglas couple have come up with a device to help them feel safer, writes MARTHA BRENNAN
Up and running... device helps keep women safe
Miss Cork 2014 Katie O'Donoghue, who is brand ambassador for Run Angel, wearing the device. Picture: Miki Barlok

DOUGLAS-based husband and wife team, David and Ellen Caren have released an innovative product that is going to help many runners, walkers, hikers and explorers.

Run Angel is a compact personal safety device, worn on the wrist, that emits a loud 120dB high-pitched alarm when activated and pairs with smartphone devices to send out alerts to your chosen contacts in the event of an emergency.

Since 2013, Ellen and David have worked tirelessly to develop the device and have come a long way to get Run Angel to where it is today.

Prior to developing Run Angel, Ellen worked as a Concessions Manager for the Brown Thomas Retail Group and David worked in the music industry in music management and A&R.

David, a runner for years, would often come in from his training and tell Ellen of situations where he’d seen women out running alone at night.

Ellen says it wasn’t until she began running herself that she was not only able to see this for herself, but experienced the sense of vulnerability a runner often feels when out alone.

She tells us the chilling story that was the inspiration for the product.

“The impetus for Run Angel was born out of an unfortunate encounter whilst David was out on an early morning run.

“After passing a woman out running alone, he was knocked to the ground by a hooded figure, and when he got to his feet the guy had ran back in the direction he had come from.

“It didn’t hit him until he was back into his run that this guy was actually pursuing the lone female runner. This sat with him for quite some time afterwards.”

They researched what was available to a runner to deter an attack and alert passers-by and found that the personal safety devices available were quite cumbersome and they lacked the smart messaging capabilities that are now found in Run Angel.

David and Ellen Caren from Rochestown, who founded Run Angel. Picture: Miki Barlok
David and Ellen Caren from Rochestown, who founded Run Angel. Picture: Miki Barlok

So they decided to create their own.

“We have spent several years perfecting the acoustic design of our product. It has been an ultra-marathon journey to say the least, making something so small sound loud was no easy feat,” Ellen says,”Think standing in front of the speakers at Live at the Marquee!”

To kick-off the development process, they availed of the innovation voucher scheme provided by Enterprise Ireland before securing a place on The New Frontiers Business Program at the Rubicon Centre in Cork.

This culminated in the company winning the Best Business Plan Award. Their local Enterprise Office in South Cork believed in the product from the offset and provided great support along with Enterprise Ireland in Cork.

“Throughout all stages of development, we were mindful that our product would be worn on the wrist. We placed a heavy emphasis on the feedback of our target audience throughout all stages.

“Focus group interviews dictated that we also needed it to be aesthetically pleasing — sporty, fashionable and of course, easily accessible;.

Since mooting the project at the end of 2013, Run Angel underwent many iterations that led to numerous prototyping samples and enhancements and the team has grown to over 10 people and moved into new premises in Douglas.

Run Angel is manufactured in the UK and Ireland, which is considered unusual for a wearable technology product. The vast majority of wearable tech companies travel to Asian markets to build their products.

Ellen says: “We believe when it comes to personal safety you cannot afford to compromise on the build quality and reliability of your product and that, in the end, the user should feel confident that what they are buying stands up to what it says it can do. There should be no shortcuts to the finish line when safety is concerned.”

And while the primary target for the product is the female runner, all demographics can benefit greatly from Run Angel such as walkers, students, overseas travellers and those coming home after a night out.

For all of these people, Ellen had this advice to offer@ “Always be aware of your surroundings when out alone, carry a phone and don’t play music too loudly through headphones as it may hinder reaction time to an incident.

“We ask our target audience, and indeed their loved ones, to spread the word of Run Angel as an essential product made here in Ireland that can do something which can make a real difference to a life in an emergency.”

And as for the future of Run Angel?

“Our primary goal is to be recognised as the market leader in connected personal safety, to keep the business local as we scale, to enter overseas markets, and to build on the safety aspect of Run Angel with future pipeline models.”.

Run Angel costs €99, which includes a hard shell travel case. See www.runangel.com

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