Today’s personal emergency response systems (PERS) technologies are evolving to meet the new needs of customer markets, and dovetail nicely into full security and home automation solutions. The PERS industry is experiencing an overhaul in technologies and form factors, and is even moving out of the home and into the workplace where commercial opportunities are growing. Corporations around the globe with “lone workers” are learning about the protection that today’s new PERS and mobile PERS (mPERS) units provide, and the potential is huge.
“Seniors are not the only ones that can benefit from today’s systems, nor should they. Think about it: PERS means personal emergency response systems. Personal emergencies can happen to anyone,” emphasizes Christopher Baskin, chief executive officer (CEO) of American Two-Way, North Hollywood, Calif., a wholesale monitoring company. “Designed to protect children, lone workers, seniors and beyond, the mPERS market especially is opening a much larger market,” he shares.
With the added mobility, smaller form factors, wireless communications, and integration with apps, GPS, and geo-fencing, the solutions are more acceptable and effective than ever before. Here are just a few of the advancements in today’s “next-generation” PERS.
“Technology and an increase in PERS users are driving all the recent upgrades in the PERS industry and the shift to mPERS,” says Mindy Harrington, marketing and business development manager, LogicMark, Louisville, Ky. LogicMark just released the SentryPal, which satisfies the need for the user on the go, for someone in need of GPS tracking as well as someone needing geo-fencing. Read more in “PERS on the Go” on page 102. “There are definitely other users beside the traditional market, although that is still the heaviest,” Harrington observes. “Other markets include lone workers, schools and healthcare-needs individuals.”
The evolution of PERS has only begun, and it will be all mobile one day,” predicts Baskin.
His company has added a unique twist — using the smartphone as the actual PERS device and GPS locator, but doing it without an app. It is a radical thought that could have very interesting implications. Read more in “The PERS Device Everyone Already Has,” on page 104.
The cell phone itself in the person’s pocket is powerful — the ultimate mPERS device, Baskin says. “Technology now lets us enable any cell phone on any network to become an mPERS device. Apps are good as well, and we have one. But we also went with a solution that uses no app — just the phone — because we felt it may be unrealistic for someone to find and launch the app in an emergency or keep it updated. Our unique technology pulls the GPS out of the phone or triangulates it if no GPS is available.”
Everyone, including the traditional aging PERS market, is becoming more comfortable with the idea of using their phones as PERS devices, or at least as part of the solution.
The aging population and baby boomers in particular will continue to grow the PERS segment of our industry, and they are ready to take advantage of the new technologies and form factors, says James Beaty, new business development, United Central Control (UCC), San Antonio, a wholesale monitoring company. “With a strong desire to ‘age in place,’ today’s PERS customers are comprised of health-conscious and tech-savvy individuals who are more open than past generations to the technology that PERS and telehealth products offer. Unlike the generation that preceded them, they are comfortable with computers, cell phones, and even smartphones,” he says.
“UCC has recently embarked on an extensive search to identify ‘next-generation’ PERS,” Beaty shares. The search has UCC working with traditional PERS manufacturers, mobile PERS manufacturers, telehealth device manufactures, and experts in the PERS and telehealth industry.
A company called Essence, based in Herzliya Pituach, Israel, provides Care@Home product suite, an Essence SmartCare solution that enables people to enjoy the comfort of aging at home with full confidence and peace of mind for themselves and their loved ones. Care@Home uses an intelligent algorithm and analytics engine to identify early signs of health deterioration and/or emergency situations by alerting family members or care givers when there is any deviation from the normal daily routine. “The system learns the pattern of the patient and then the smart algorithm notifies the family of any deviation of routine. Because the system learns the routines, it can alert care givers to prolonged time out of home, too much time on toilet, sudden low activity or high activity and provide an insightful alert,” explains Amit Kroll, director of market strategy, Essence.
Seniors don’t have to press any buttons, he adds. “In fact, 80 percent of elderly don’t push the panic button. They can’t. This system can alert to a fall or sudden inactivity to be checked on, so the family can always be in the know.”
Alarm.com, Vienna, Va., offers a wellness solution that combines sensors, mobile notifications and home automation to provide independent living by using a new bed presence monitor, panic buttons and sensors that monitor activity. Using the real-time information from in-home sensors, the solution notifies family members or designated caregivers of unexpected changes in routines that may indicate an emergency.
“People are living longer, healthier and more active lives, and aging family members, as well as people with disabilities, are looking for secure ways to live independently at home,” says Alison Slavin, vice president of product management at Alarm.com. “Our Wellness solution extends our connected home technology platform to help people remain secure, healthy and independent for as long as possible.
“PERS has been nothing new for some time, but there is an evolution towards mPERS so elderly can take the systems with them when up and about,” Kroll says.
Today’s PERS manufacturers are including new features that surpass what is considered “traditional PERS,” Beaty says. “With Mobile PERS, GPS tracking is available, which easily translates into keeping up with children and lone workers; and PERS units that can relay information from healthcare devices such as blood-pressure monitoring, blood-oxygen monitoring, pill dispensers, and many other devices, translates to expansion into the healthcare industry,” Beaty predicts. “Smart people are doing different things in different industries and we’re watching those. Europe is a great example. Telehealth has exploded there. It is exciting.”
The PERS market has never had greater growth potential than it does right now, confirms Kristin Hebert, dealer relations, Acadian Monitoring Services, Lafayette, La. “PERS has grown into more than just for a home-bound grandmother. Not only does this more active generation have a need for PERS devices that offer them more freedom and independence, such as two-way pendants and mobile devices, but you can also find PERS or PERS-like devices in lone-worker solutions like remote oil field workers, or traveling healthcare providers. Acadian uses PERS devices on all of its fleet maintenance technicians that work outside of its home location of Lafayette,” she adds.
Jeff Sweeney, marketing manager, Linear LLC, Carlsbad, Calif., says PERS has its roots in the security industry and, as such, it can be used as an alternative to a residential security system. “Smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors, PIRs and door/window transmitters can operate with the PERS console Linear offers,” he describes. “In addition, some small retail businesses utilize PERS as a ‘listen-in’ solution in the event of a disturbance or robbery,” Sweeney says. He adds that fall detection and mobile PERS are two product solutions that Linear is actively pursuing. They have “a lot of potential…and we strive [not to be first, but] to be diligent and thorough in our research and development process in order to make sure that our sensors, PERS units and other technologies that we develop are tested, proven and fully market ready,” Sweeney explains.
It is exciting to see the new generation of PERS that is starting to evolve. The new PERS options solve problems for customers residentially and commercially, offering a richer service with a promising future. n
More ‘App’lications Than Ever for PERS
Connecting apps with central station monitoring is transforming the industry and expanding opportunities for dealers. EmergenSee®, which was awarded “Best in Mobile Apps” at ISC West this year, turns a smartphone or tablet into a personal security system via patented technology that allows users to transmit detailed real-time video, audio and GPS information to responders when serious and potentially dangerous situations are encountered. With just one tap of the app, contacts immediately see, hear and follow the incident as it unfolds and effectively react to the situation. It has a wide variety of sensible features including Stealth Mode, which turns the smartphone’s screen black, to give the illusion that it’s off. Meanwhile, EmergenSee continues to stream live video to the pre-selected contacts without drawing attention. EmergenSee is partnered with AMCEST, a New Jersey corporation, founded in 1975, to provide a full-service global monitoring service. For more information, visit www.EmergenSee.com and www.amcest.com.
No Wires to Hold the Market Down
Incorporating wireless technologies into PERS systems has been a huge boost for the industry, and it’s a necessary one for the future. PERS is a changing business, says Mark Ingram, Tri-Ed. “A traditional PERS was always landline based, and the people that are utilizing PERS right now are the greatest generation ever — the World War II generation. As baby boomers come of age to use medical devices they will be using a lot more cellular since technologically they will need it. Plus the landlines are going away,” he adds.
Telguard’s cellular technology and service have been integrated into the Mytrex’s MXD3G, which provides a cellular solution without the need for a telephone line. Instead it leverages technology for 3G/4G networks to protect your hardware investment, according to the companies. “Understanding that a lost landline often means lost RMR, the MXD3G was designed to be easily mailed to and self-installed by the end customer,” the companies say. As long as a dealer’s central station advertises support for two-way voice, the MXD3G can be installed.
“Cellular service activation for the MXD3G, as with all Telguard products, is quick and simple through Telguard Online. For dealers looking to increase and protect their RMR with the MXD3G, contact a Telguard sales representative at 800-229-2326 and select option 5,” Telguard says.
Medical Alarm Concepts, King of Prussia, Pa., also offers a “landline-free” PERS option and two-way voice. The company’s MediPendant® works with or without a home phone using the ‘no phone line’ adapter. The MediPendant® also will work with alternative telephone services including Ooma, Vonage and AT&T’s U-Verse services. MediPendant enables the user to speak and listen directly through the pendant, no matter where they may be in and around their home. MediPendant enables the user to communicate directly through the pendant with two-way voice technology. There is no need to be near the base station and no need for a voice extender or a wall-mounted button — everything is in the pendant.
Home Is Where the Smart Lock Is
Today’s PERS systems are moving toward placing more information in the hands of end users. With today’s smart locks, information is both power and peace of mind, especially in aging-in-place scenarios. Today’s electronic smart locks provide the opportunity to know not only who unlocked a door, but also who locked it or re-locked it — and when. In addition, caregivers can potentially collect even more information about what is going on in the home. With smart locks, unwanted guests are kept out, while access can be granted to loved ones, caregivers, and even first responders in emergency situations. And this access is allowed without anyone ever having to physically use a key.
There are primarily three essential roles that an electronic smart lock can play to accommodate aging in place:
- Smart locks allow the adult children to monitor the elderly person’s activity. The lock itself can be viewed as a kind of “sensor,” providing information about what is going on inside a home — who has been granted access and when. Family members and caregivers have to play a central role in making this work. Locks can be programmed to send out emails and texts regarding who is accessing the home. If a lock has not been opened for a day or two, it can be recognized as a red flag. And if the lock is determined to be unlocked, it can be locked remotely by the adult child.
- Smart locks can provide customized access. Individual access codes can be provided to any authorized people who might need access to the home and its residents. These can be service technicians, such as plumbers or electricians, or they can be healthcare professionals authorized to enter in the event of a medical emergency.
- Smart locks can simplify caregiver management, and make it safer. Because access codes can be changed and multiple codes can be used, keys never have to be provided to caretakers. It’s a reality that caretakers, such as housekeepers, change over time; with smart locks, when caretakers change, codes can change, so there is never a worry about where those stray keys have gone. Access availability also can be scheduled for a caregiver, designating specific times of day when their code will work. — Contributed by Keith Brandon, director of sales and marketing for residential access solutions, Kwikset, Lake Forest, Calif.
PERS on the Go
Mobile PERS (mPERS) is gaining traction both to help protect active workers and children, and to provide more mobility to seniors. In April, LogicMark, LLC, Louisville, Ky., announced the SentryPal, an mPERS system. SentryPal can literally go wherever the user goes — the store, on a route, to school, to a neighbor’s home, to church, jogging or bike riding — and if a need arises, help is only the push of a button away. SentryPal offers peace of mind with full two-way voice communication. Its built-in GPS location system lets the called party know where the caller is so that help can be sent to the right location.
Geo-fencing capabilities are another feature of the SentryPal where an area can be designated for the user to be within their yard or a block of their home, for example. When the person leaves this area, a text message or email is sent. With the online tools, the boundary of the geo-fence can be changed with a Web browser. For information, visit www.logicmark.com.
The PERS Device Everyone Already Has
American Two-Way offers a Mobile Monitoring Solution called TotalTrack, which is a complete one-stop-shop mobile monitoring package that provides wholesale mobile devices, cellular services, mobile monitoring and more. It combines multiple forms of mobile monitoring all riding on a single platform and controlled through a single portal for the user.
In addition, the TotalTrack platform turns any user’s cell phone into an mPERS device by pulling the GPS out of any [italicize any] cell phone on any [italicize any] network or triangulating the cell phone if no GPS is available. With more than 400,000,000 cell phones in use in America, this is an amazing opportunity for dealers, says American Two-Way’s Christopher Baskin. Another “industry first,” according to the company, is the ability to turn any cell phone into an mPERS device without an app. Because there is no app there are no issues in finding and launching the right app, which could be very difficult in stressful situations, Baskin believes. (Note: the company does offer an app and wearable mPERS devices as well for customers more comfortable with those options).
The company says the TotalTrack solution, which allows different services to be added on easily, actually targets the “sandwich generation,” the sons and daughters of the baby boomer generation who need to take care of their parents, but may also need to monitor their children or their teenagers’ cars, etc. “TotalTrack is mindfully targeted to allow you to add services to it with this generation, which has multiple needs, in mind,” Baskin describes. “When a person buys mPERS for their parents, they can also add on their child or their teenage daughter’s car with the geo-fencing. Because everything all works in the same system, additional services are seamless to add and present greater opportunities for dealers and users.”
The solution allows for multiple subscribers per household or business to utilize mPERS, mobile child protection, vehicle tracking/crash detection, as well as business solutions such as fleet management and lone worker protection. All of these services are tracked, “bread crumbed” and geo-fenced through one user-friendly portal, myTotalTrack.com. In an emergency the monitoring center takes over and sends first responders to the location.