April 5, 2013 at 5:59 PM ET
Humanitarian work is essential to helping impoverished or otherwise stricken areas, but very often dangerous for the actual aid workers. A new cell-powered smart bracelet for people at risk would enable a quick response to an attack or kidnapping.
The "Natalia Project" bracelets were proposed after the 2009 kidnapping and murder of an aid worker in Chechnya, after whom the device was named — and the idea got a fresh coat of relevance this week when an AmeriCorps volunteer worker in Louisiana was killed.
The bracelet packs a battery, cellular module and GPS unit into its chunky form. When activated, it transmits its current location and a pre-configured distress message to a number of recipients, from nearby police to Twitter followers around the world.
A signal can be sent out manually if the wearer thinks they are in danger, but it will also transmit automatically if the bracelet is forcibly removed. Other methods and security elements can be customized to fit the circumstances.
On Monday, 18-year-old AmeriCorps volunteer Joseph Massenburg was found shot to death in a New Orleans neighborhood Monday night. He was part of AmeriCorps' teams in the area that were working with Habitat for Humanity and Green Light New Orleans.
NBC News contacted AmeriCorps Friday to see if a device like the Natalia bracelet would be helpful if adopted, but the organization declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
The bracelet effort is still a small-scale project: Only 55 of them are planned for release by 2014, but Civil Rights Defenders, the group that created the device, is hoping to collect funding to deploy more. You can learn more about the project and donate to put more Natalia bracelets in the field at the official website.
— via BBC
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.