No thanks, I’ll walk

4 Mins read

Meet Epowar, the safety app that can automatically detect if you are being attacked. 

“Don’t be walking about by yourself”. 

“Make sure you text when me when you get home”.

“Get back before it gets dark“.

These are the sort of phrases that sound like a broken record to so many women and young girls. Walking the streets with keys between your fingers or a safety alarm in hand has become all so normalised but with one fatal flaw.

Safety devices such as alarms put the responsibility on the victim to get help themselves, which is almost impossible when you are being attacked. 

E-J Roodt, co-founder and CEO of Epowar, first realised a need for change during her second year of university, “Whenever I wanted to do something sociable I would always make these complicated arrangements to avoid walking on my own. My mum had brought me a rape alarm, and I was like if somebody attacks me how am I going to get this out?”

“One day I was watching a Keynote speech from Apple, and Tim Cook was reading out thank you notes that people had sent him, saying that the Apple Watch had saved their life because it had detected a heart attack. It was a bit of a lightbulb moment, that maybe these devices could actually detect attack.”

The co-founders of Epowar pose in front of the app logo
Epowar co-founders Maks Rahman and E-J Roodt [Epowar]

Epowar is a smartwatch app revolutionising safety as the first app to automatically detect if a user is being attacked. The app works by monitoring smartwatch data of the user’s motion and heart rate in relation to advanced AI models that recognise and interpret signs of physical and psychological distress. 

If an attack is detected, and an alert on the user’s smartwatch is not switched off, the app will automatically send an emergency notification to the user’s chosen contacts.

Simultaneously, the app will begin collecting vital evidence such as the user’s location and microphone data which is accessible to the user via the cloud. The collected evidence will then be sent to the user by email. 

E-J enlisted the help of her co-founder Maks Rahman to build Epowarthe pair undertaking three years’ worth of extensive research and various testing methods to ensure the absence of false alarms. 

“We knew from the start that we wanted something completely automated,” E-J explains, “It had to be that you could walk or run, or do whatever you want to do, and if something happens to you this app will detect it and respond on your behalf.” 

The challenge was training AI to detect a physical attack and how that was different to other activities: “We designed tests that would simulate normal activity and mental and physical stress accurately so that our models would pick it up.”

Without funding they began by using the park as their testing ground, asking for the help of passers-by to take part in short tests involving their heart rates being monitored while exercising and answering sporadic maths questions at the same time. 

After countless other studies, they later developed a testing app in order to build AI models that can accurately recognise the difference between an attack and a high-intensity exercise.

“They are super accurate, they don’t miss anything, and there’s an incredibly low, less than 2% false positive rate,” E-J said.

Epowar was then launched to the public in June 2023.

The narrative most commonly pushed upon women and young girls is that to save themselves from attack they should avoid being outside alone after dark.

A study by the Office of National Statistics shows that one in two women feel unsafe walking alone after dark, whether it be on a quiet street near their homes or a busy public space.

This is made even more complicated when the winter months come along, bringing with it a ‘seasonal curfew’ for women which can be as early as 4:00 pm, hours before the work-day has ended for the majority. 

“When women come together we do empower each other, and I guess Epowar is a digital extension of that.”


To address the loss of freedom that women face especially during the dark winter months, Epowar teamed up with Girls Who Walk, a social walking community with groups set up across the country, to arrange an event called ‘No Thanks, I’ll Walk’. 

The idea was sparked over a Zoom call between E-J and Ella, who founded the first Girls Who Walk community in Manchester.

“We were on a call together talking about how Girls Who Walk works, and then Ella said to me, ‘we’re going to cancel our Wednesday night walks now because it’s getting dark’, we just stopped and looked at each other and we were just like ‘that’s kinda bullshit, isn’t it?’” E-J told us.

“We thought rather than cancelling the night walks let’s ramp them up, let’s make this really, really intentional. Let’s turn the dark scary streets into beautiful spaces. The whole point is, when women come together we do empower each other and I guess Epowar is kind of a digital extension of that.” 

A total of 11 night walks were organised over the course of November and December, with an approximate total of 12,000 people signing up to take part.

With groups of women coming together in bright colours and glitter, with glow sticks in hand to light up the dark streets of cities across the UK including Manchester, Bristol, Dundee, and London amongst others. 

Attending the final night walk of the year in December myself, the sense of community was undeniable, it is clear that these night walks are more than just to make a statement, but provide women will the opportunity to meet new people and build friendships. While taking part in the walk,

I noted it being the first time in a long time that I’ve had a walk in London after dark without the intention being getting from A to B the quickest and safest way possible. 

E-J agrees: “It’s a universal experience, women feeling scared to walk alone. But I think addressing the feeling of disempowerment, but also giving a solution that is based around coming together and empowering each other makes a huge difference.” 

Featured Image courtesy of Epowar.

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