Jerry Farsoun of Leelou on Crypto Clothesline
Speaking with Jerry Farsoun of Leelou was inspirational. High energy inspiration!
Jerry spoke candidly about where the inspiration for Leelou came from: on the 9th of March, 2007, he had a near-death experience caused by a suicide attempt. As a result, he spent the next 12 months rebuilding his life. He purchased a powered parachute, flew solo and unassisted around Australia to raise awareness of the vital importance of friendship, with an emphasis on suicide.
“In that flight I didn’t know how I was going to make an impact in the world, but in the month of September alone in 2008 in Western Australia, there was a 500 percent increase in calls to a suicide telephone counselling service.”
Not only did Jerry feel alone at that time back in March 2007, but was literally in the middle of nowhere…
Leelou was born: a personal safety app which takes its users from a personal threat to personal safety anywhere, anytime in a GSM coverage area (GSM: Global System for Mobile communications – protocols used by digital cellular networks used by mobile devices).
“Suffice to say, it’ll work in the middle of the ocean. It will work in the middle of nowhere.”
Currently Leelou are looking to try to make it work anywhere on the planet: essentially wherever your mobile phone works with traditional data and phone calls.
“Anyone who’s ever felt suicidal or depressed already feels like a burden. They find it very hard to reach out. So reaching out to somebody using the SOS button was my initial calling.”
The SOS button is a feature of the Leelou app which enables the user to alert parents, close friends, whoever they’ve nominated as a ‘friend’ on the app, that they’re feeling in danger.
At the moment the SOS button is physical: you have to press it, but Leelou are in the process of integrating voice recognition activation also, which means you can call out, or speak so that Artificial Intelligence will verify the sound of your voice and activate the alert.
Personally, as a mother of three children who actually do walk and bus to school, I’m concerned both about helicopter parenting – raising overly-dependent children who are constantly being shepherded everywhere and the safety of my children when they’re alone. I pride myself on raising kids that know how to move safely in the world – using public transport, experiencing the ‘I-can’ feeling of independence walking to school, visiting nearby friends, even going to the shops – experiences I took for granted growing up. The world we parent in now has become rife with overprotection, parenting through fear and kids that are afraid to be in the world…
With due reason: there are lots of crusty peeps out there. More cars on the road, stressed-out drivers in a rush, drivers texting, people with mental displacement due to drugs and alcohol on the roads, on the street, in every conceivable social setting. Then there are the people who prey on children’s innocence and vulnerability… wouldn’t it be great to have kids who are confident to move in their local worlds, but at the same time, be just an SOS button away from alerting you to the fact that they feel in danger and need you to come immediately?
“You’ll know within 15 seconds where they are and what’s going on.”
That means that my kids could have a phone (or an iWatch) and they could a signal me if they feel in danger and I can locate them geographically using the app on my phone, pop down and grab them.
“If you’re worried you can just tap into the app and see where they are and it’ll let you know when they arrive at home or at school or leave a certain area, and they could see how far away you were when you’re coming to get them.”
Jerry is very clear in saying that it’s not about monitoring, it’s about alerting you to their safety and wellbeing.
“We don’t want anyone to be monitored. It’s more about when someone’s in trouble.”
What about the case of the stalking ex?
Even if you were worried about a crazed jealous ex, he/she couldn’t monitor or invade your privacy because you’d need you allow someone to see your location. If you’re sharing your location, it’ll say ‘navigate’. If you’re not sharing your location, it will say ‘request’.
If your location’s being shared, you’ll know. Leelou doesn’t send it to everyone to see where you are.
Jerry used the example of where ex partners who are co-parenting, who may have come out of a domestic violence situation, are still both guardians of the same child. If the parents are not ‘friends’ on Leelou, they can’t see each other’s phone number or location. If their shared-care child hits the SOS button, it independently goes out to the two different phone numbers. The users will come up ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ who can see each other’s ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ but no further information. There’s a button to say: you’re not friends with mum, would you like to share? The mum (or dad) chooses no or yes.
In the event of somebody who has dementia or an elderly person who gets lost on the street, you’ll be able to find them if they have their phone with them.
Leelou are also working on a feature that will track those particular people, in the form of a wearable like an iWatch, Android wearable watch, a Fitbit or any kind of smartphone watch. You can allow their location to be shared so that you can see where they are at any moment.
Similarly, Leelou is working on a feature called Lost Child Mode. As soon as parents get more than 10 metres away from their child, Lost Child Mode will tell them that they’ve ‘lost’ their child. And the watch will connect to somebody else’s phone. It’ll tell parents which direction the child is in and will take you to exactly where they are within about five to 10 metres.
Anyone in the world who has a phone can download the app and use Leelou for free, as the mission of the company is purpose before profit. There will possibly be low-cost subscription options for special features but Jerry has a strong message:
“I personally believe that in today’s environment, personal safety should be right, not a privilege.”
Jerry discovered that this technology shouldn’t be reserved just for the mentally ill.
He believes that anyone should be able to use this service, which is how the idea of personal safety being a right, not a privilege, came to be.
“Anyone in a suicidal state, or in domestic violence or any sort of personal threat should be able to achieve a level of personal safety anywhere, anytime, using this technology.”
Blockchain allows for the data to be more secure, immutable, and hard to hack – keeping your personal information private.
This is a fantastic way of being able to ensure and feel relaxed too, that your kids and your loved ones are okay, whoever and wherever, they may be.
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