Security Focus Africa
In conversation with…
Anton Swanevelder and Herman Bester, winners of the Santam Safety Ideas Campaign 2018
Driven by a desire to make South Africa safer for everyone, co-founders of MyLifeLine Anton Swanevelder and Herman Bester chatted to Security Focus about their award-winning panic device.
We wanted to help others as well as our own loved ones in the event that they find themselves in an emergency and unable to call for help.
Being actively involved in the security industry, we recognised the need for a wearable device that integrates with a control room without being dependent on a cell phone. The Internet of Things (IoT) has given us the ability to innovate in this gap in the market which sees, all too often, instances where people’s safety and lives are at risk. We read about farm attacks, and assaults on students and the elderly in the media all the time, and that as a result of the sudden nature of the attacks, how they can’t get to their cell phones or that their phones are taken from them, or that emergency services don’t know where to find them. We wanted to create a GPS device that can pinpoint their best estimated locations and as a result, save precious minutes.
Who they are…
Anton is the Chief Technical Officer of MyLifeLine, in charge of software development and electronic media and content. He completed his N.Dip IT at the Tshwane University of Technology (Pretoria), which set him on the road to fulfilling his career dream of becoming an entrepreneur and inventor with the purpose of helping others. When time permits, he spends time with his family, on the golf course or at church.
Herman is the Chief Executive Officer of MyLifeLine, overseeing the company’s business development and security operational innovations portfolios. He obtained his B.Com (Logistics) and MBA at UNISA and Stellenbosch University Business School respectively before pursuing his goal of being a mentor for start-ups and becoming a preferred security player in South Africa. Family and work commitments leave him with little leisure time but he can’t resist dipping into books and articles on security innovations.
People should have access to proper safety escalation technology wherever they are, which is exactly what MyLifeLine is: a panic button for wherever you are. The main inspiration behind the founding of the start-up was to allow people to access trained emergency controllers as well as their preferred contacts in crises without being dependent on their cell phones. We created the panic device with GSM and GPS tracking to enable people to receive fast assistance wherever they may be. Affordable and accessible, we’re hoping it will go a long way to making South African communities feel safer.
Although there’s a variety of panic apps and Bluetooth panic buttons on the market today, smartphone-dependent panic technologies are not always ideal in emergency situations. During criminal attacks, cell phones are usually the first devices seized from the victims. And in accidents or life threatening situations, it’s also not always practical to utilize cell phones to make contact with the right people. We wanted to come up with something that could monitor panic signals received from cell phone-independent, IoT-linked panic devices. The MyLifeLine software is designed to monitor IoT safety devices through any 24 hour manned control room. It operates off a security platform that is integrated with security control rooms, which assist the customer to receive 24/7 response from a dedicated control room security operator. Our platform is cloud-based and therefore a control room only needs an internet browser to run the software for free. We do this as affordably as possible, so that as many users as possible can have access to the service. We also hope to enable communities that did not have the financial means to afford conventional security an opportunity to establish and improve their own security infrastructure.
How it works…
The device can be worn on the wrist or a key lanyard. Essentially a mini cell phone with its own sim card, it works wherever a cellular network is available. Press and hold the button for three seconds and the device will send a panic signal to the MyLifeLine servers. The client’s emergency contacts will then immediately receive a sms and a GPS link. This signal will also be received by a control room operator who has access to the customer’s emergency details. The operator will phone the customer to establish the nature of the emergency and then decide on the next steps.
It took more than 3 years of self-funded hard-work and a hefty investment to integrate the software with the devices and get the product ready for the market. The challenge was to create a de-centralized IoT platform that can run in any control room anywhere in the world and integrate with IoT devices. Finding the right device and integrating the software has been the most difficult and costly aspect of our journey to date.
Anton: Our reward is the idea that we can make South Africa a little bit safer for everyone.
Herman: That we can prevent life and financial loss for everyone, especially in low income areas where expensive alarm platforms are not financially feasible.
Goals for the future…
We’re committed to securing additional funding and to increasing our capacity for more innovation. There are so many great innovations that can be created to help both South Africans and the international community but they require the freedom and capacity that comes from funding.
We also want to add more IoT security innovations to the platform in the interests of further reducing losses, both of life and financially. Apart from personal safety innovations there is also a synergy in reducing the risk of financial loss through the tracking of high-value assets, including livestock, which is part of our next phase.
Don’t give up. If you have a big idea, keep pushing and build connections with the big companies who can help you through the tough times. We’re extremely excited and honoured by the recognition and advise other entrepreneurs to seek support from more established businesses as we did.
Hopes for SA…
We would love to see education become compulsory, for everyone to have a sustainable lifestyle and for unemployment to drop, all of which will reduce crime in South Africa. This would lead to our next hope: that South Africa becomes a place where people from all backgrounds and walks of life can live a good, happy and secure life in unity and with respect for one another.
What are you going to do with R200 000 seed funding prize?
We want to allocate a portion to our packaging, marketing and online presence. We also have plans for further technological innovation, which is extremely exciting. Because there are so many applications for our product! This money will help us reduce our long-term planning to medium-term.
The Safety Ideas initiative, spearheaded by Santam, is run in partnership with the Stellenbosch University Launchlab, a mixed-use business incubator whose main aim is to facilitate valuable connections between entrepreneurs and strategic partners, creating the sparks of innovation between these two.
Contact details: MyLifeLine https://www.mylifeline.co.za