Written by: Stuart Foxman
If you’re working by yourself, or find yourself alone anywhere, will people know where you are if trouble happens? Will you be able to get help quickly?
Toronto entrepreneur Drew Henson wants people to have peace of mind. That’s the idea behind his company, SEAM Technic (seamtechnic.com), which designs a personal safety platform and device. “Use them and you can feel safe and happy,” he says.
A “seam” refers to joining different things. SEAM links users with trusted contacts. “It’s a digital connection,” says Henson.
The SEAM offerings have a few forms. One is a mobile app. When users turn it on, it starts tracking their location. That’s basic. It also offers context – what Henson calls “environmental data”. Real-time photos and audio can be backed up to the cloud or streamed to selected contacts. Users can also place calls directly from the app, notifying contacts if they’re in an emergency.
One target market is people who drive for Uber. The app is ideal for them, says Henson, because they’re lone workers and always have their phone on the dash. Of the 5,000 or so app users to date, at least 30% are Uber drivers.
A related device is the wearable Lotus by SEAM. Henson calls it a “smart panic button”. The Lotus has a microphone and speakers, so users can record and stream surrounding audio. By holding down a button, the Lotus automatically calls the nearest contact. The device can clip on to clothing, or to necklace and wrist adapters.
The design for the Lotus was a finalist for the SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards. Henson felt the device would appeal to realtors, as they work alone and meet strangers every day. But the market is broad, and in the late fall of 2019 Best Buy began carrying the Lotus.
Henson’s path to entrepreneurship is filled with eclectic stops. One of his first loves was cars, and he dreamed of designing tech for the Formula One racing circuit. He earned a B.Sc. in Engineering Physics from the University of Saskatchewan, and landed a job in Indianapolis as a data acquisition engineer intern for a racing team.
Went that ended, Henson returned to Calgary, where he grew up, and helped his brother run a nightclub. “I had gone from quantum mechanics to figuring out how to pour more beer for people. It wasn’t for me,” he says.
Henson enrolled in the Scuola Politecnica di Design in Milan, Italy, and earned his Masters in Industrial Design. He turned that into a product director job for Drift Innovation in London, working on action cameras (the kind you attach to a person or thing). “I was responsible for understanding the human body and how tech is worn on the body,” he says.
After he moved to Toronto, Henson started his own design studio in 2014 called twenty2b. “It focuses on products at the centre of art, design and technology,” he says. His efforts to create a product that would truly help people led to the launch of SEAM in 2016.
His winding journey, and the challenges of starting a company, have only reinforced to Henson the need for perseverance.
“There will be huge ups and downs,” he advises active or aspiring entrepreneurs. “The only way to be there for the ups is to still be in the game.”
Photo credit: Zlatko Cetinic, Images Made Real