Local Inventor Hopes to Enhance Personal Safety for Women
ST. CLOUD – A local engineer-turned-entrepreneur is hoping to change the way women view personal safety.
34-year-old St. Augusta resident Kanthi Yalamanchili has developed a smartwatch that can alert emergency services if the wearer is in danger.
Now, she’s aiming to bring it into the global marketplace.
Born in India, Yalamanchili has a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the Florida Institute of Technology. After a stint as a research assistant at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, she and her husband moved to Minnesota. Yalamanchili took a job at SeaGate Technologies in Bloomington, developing microchip technology.
In 2015, one of her SeaGate colleagues experienced the loss of a daughter, abducted and killed after leaving work one night.
The situation deeply affected Kalamanchili.
Imagining that happening to me — the empathy part of it — just made me think. Looking at him was the most horrible thing. I felt like no person in this world should be going through that.
Yalamanchili calls the situation a "catalyst.” In 2016, she quit her job and decided to use her engineering background to develop a wearable personal safety product specifically for women.
Yalamanchili describes Rizlet, a play on the words “wrist” and “bracelet,” as a "smartwatch with a home security system inside of it." The watch offers typical smartwatch features like fitness tracking, digital notifications and interchangeable watchbands.
But unlike a typical smartwatch, Rizlet can be activated to deter an attacker and call for help. The wearer can tap the screen three times to sound an alarm, flash a strobe light and alert 9-1-1 along with a list of emergency contacts, stored in a companion phone app. The emergency alert system also sends out a map, pinpointing the wearer's location.
Other watch modes will quietly send messages or location alerts to family members and friends if the wearer feels they could be in danger but aren't certain.
Yalamanchili says, there isn’t another product on the market equipped with this combination of features.
We need something that could tell us where our loved ones are when they're actually in trouble,” Yalamanchili says. “Not just when they're in a coffee shop and checking in on Facebook. When they're actually in need, you can know where they are.”
In 2018, Yalamanchili began working with local investors to bring Rizlet into the marketplace. She aims to manufacture 500 watches by the end of 2019, a cost of $150,000.
Next year, she plans to partner with online merchandisers like Amazon with the long-term goal of selling 50,000 watches worldwide annually.
Yalamanchili is still fine-tuning the physical details of Rizlet, most recently adding a larger screen at the request of a beta test group. She plans to sell a basic model for $99, and a luxury version for between $150-200.
She hopes to create a finished product that women won't have to remember to bring along with them during their days.
If I'm going on a grocery run, I'd be like "I'll be fine," but something might happen in the parking lot. You never know. I designed it so women can wear it every single day and make it part of their lifestyle.
Yalamanchili is a featured speaker at this year’s TEDx St. Cloud event, scheduled for Oct. 19 .