Inspired by a fatal case of domestic violence, startup uses voice algorithms to enable people to get help without reaching for their phone.
Michal Sela was beaten and stabbed to death by her husband at home in the presence of their young daughter. Her horrific death in 2019 caused a public outcry in Israel and led to a wave of protests against domestic violence. The murder led Lee Sharir, now 27, to found a startup called Relyon that assists people in distress.
“The original idea came from the story of Michal Sela, of blessed memory, who for 17 hours bled to death only a few steps away from a phone,” she tells ISRAEL21c. “We understood that there are emergencies in which you can’t pick up the phone, say where you are, how you’re doing or assess the dangers posed to you.”
Sharir started a social initiative that developed an AI voice-activated personal safety app enabling users to activate their phones from afar using only their voice by calling out passwords. Once activated, the app starts off a string of predetermined actions, such as calling family members, security hotlines and location-tracking services.
“We have voice algorithms that are embedded in an app or non-wearable sensors that allow really good communication with the other side – a family member, friends, a hotline, depending on who your emergency contacts are – while it calls for help in a quick and effective way,” she says. Women don’t want to, or need to, involve the police in every case. The hotline and scouts provide an initial response, and then decide whether or not to involve the police according to the woman’s wishes.
“The police are meant to respond to cases of impending threat, not to give emotional response to everyone. The hotline that we work with can accompany you home if your feel unsafe, for example, or call neighbors or friends. They have a protocol and know what to do according to what you set out,” Sharir explains.
Beyond domestic violence
The initiative began with the support of the Michal Sela Forum, an NGO established by Sela’s sister to promote technological innovation to prevent domestic violence; the Israeli Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services; and the Joint humanitarian organization. It later evolved into a startup company.
Interested, may kindly contact Ms. Veshala Gajaraj, Trade Officer from the Trade and Economic Mission, Consulate General of Israel to South India, in Bangalore @ Veshalakshe.Gajaraj@israeltrade.gov.il / Phone no: +91-80-49406517.