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Naveen Jain. Photo: GeekWire.
Naveen Jain. Photo: GeekWire.

Naveen Jain — a Seattle area tech entrepreneur who co-founded lunar exploration startup Moon Express, innovation lab Blue Dot and Internet search engine InfoSpace— is preparing to embark on a very different project.

Jain and his wife Anu are sponsoring an XPRIZE, one of several regular competitions run by California nonprofit XPRIZE that pits innovators against each other to find creative solutions to pressing social needs. The Anu & Naveen Jain Women’s Safety XPRIZE will award $1 million to the team that can create an alert system that allows women to call on emergency responders when they experience sexual violence.

“Armed with innovative safety nets, communities everywhere can rapidly respond to threats against any of its members, ensuring that help is always available when needed,” according to XPRIZE’s website.

In order to win, the solution must “autonomously and inconspicuously trigger an emergency alert while transmitting information to a network of community responders, all within 90 seconds and at an annual cost of $40 or less,” according to XPRIZE’s website. The solution must also work in low-connectivity areas, those without cell service or wifi.

The concept is similar to the PulsePoint app, which allows nearby medical professionals or those trained in CPR to quickly respond to those suffering from life-threatening situations. That app received huge attention last week when a Seattle man’s life was saved by a cardiac nurse who was working nearby.

Sexual violence against women is difficult to report and combat because of persistent cultural forces, as well as a lack of technology and infrastructure to report emergencies, like the US’s 911 system. According to XPRIZE’s website, one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and in some areas that number can rise dramatically.

The competition is open to anyone interested. Teams must simply register through XPRIZE, then present a functional prototype. Teams that make it past this qualifying round will then go on to face off with deployment-ready prototypes, which will be tested for usability.

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