We need to think about our safety, especially in the winter
The running industry often talks about running safety in terms of visibility. This is an important aspect, of course, and never more so than in the winter when the days are shorter. However, for women especially, safety is a double whammy: yes, we need to be visible to drivers and pedestrians, but we also need to feel safe when we run. It’s a sad fact that the vast majority of us have experienced heckling of some kind, and there are also a number of us who have experienced abuse on a larger scale. It’s normal for us to feel anxious, especially when we run in the dark.
Now we are not for one minute going to come down on the side of this being our responsibility: it is society’s responsibility to better educate men and to better police our streets so that we don’t have to adjust our behaviours. But it is also, sadly, a fact that that education and that policing isn’t here. Yet.
So we need to be sensible. We need to campaign, yes, we need to lobby our MPs and we need to make our voices heard. And in the meantime, we need to ensure we are safe when we run.
D-Air Lab is a company that could lend us a helping hand. Originally set up to create high tech safety gear for skiiers and motorcyclists, they have recently turned their attentions to runners, and particularly those of us who run in the dark. They have developed a vest especially designed for runners that enables us to feel a little bit more safe when we go outdoors. We spoke to D-Air Lab to find out more about it.
“We thought in the running industry there was a need for a product that provided you with more safety, especially women,” explains Marco Soliman, business development manager at D-Air Lab. “We analysed the context of running and we found that about 60% of women feel unsafe when they go running.”
So D-Air Lab’s idea was to make a product that addressed a number of concerns, all wrapped up in a neat, light solution that women could wear on every run. They wanted to make something that would automatically call for help if we were to fall or to request help if we needed it, and that would also send our location. They crammed all this tech into a tiny, wearable vest.
“It’s very light, about 150g,” explains Marco. “At the heart of the system is the electronics based in the chest, which has the battery and the sensors for detecting a fall, and the Bluetooth which allows it to communicate with a smartphone.”
So there are two emergency situations that the vest helps with. If you fall, it will send out a GPS location. If you find yourself in an unsafe situation, you can trigger a phone call quickly. “It allows you to make a phone call very fast,” says Marco. “If you feel unsafe, you can just make a quick hand movement, and that makes a call. It then sends a GPS location via text message to the person who receives the call.”
Another benefit to the vest is that it also contains LED lights at the front and back, so it provides excellent visibility. Practically speaking, it has pockets to fit soft bottles, phone and keys, so it acts as a very functional piece of kit.
We were keen to find out why this was a better solution than the safety elements that were included in our sports watches. “First of all it starts an actual call,” says Marco. “The person it contacts will actually be able to hear what’s going on. We integrate everything in the vest, so it’s very stable, and it allows us to precisely detect the movements of the body, so we are confident that it won’t make a call if you’re stretching, for example. It’s very precise. The LEDS are great for being visible. It’s an integrated solution for visibility, emergency calling and fall detection. It has all the function in one product.”
Future developments from D-Air Lab include a vest for cyclists and an integrated back pack for trail runners, which we’re very excited about – after all, it’s on those long trail runs where we might go off piste, and we might also not see many people for long stretches of time. Fall detection in this instance could be nothing short of a life saver. Interesting tech – we’re looking forward to seeing what comes next.
The D-Air Lab running vest is available now, for €299.