A far cry from the 1980s "I've fallen and I can't get up" panic buttons, today's mobile personal emergency response service (MPERS) devices include GPS locators, accelerometers to detect falls automatically, and embedded cellular chips to summon help even if the wearer blacks out and is unable to push a button.
One of the newest entries in the category of modern MPERS is Lifecomm, an Atlanta-based joint venture of Hughes Telematics Inc. (HTI), Qualcomm, and American Medical Alert, with HTI holding a majority stake. Lifecomm started in 2005 as a Qualcomm-led partnership to develop a cellular phone-based healthcare service, but actually shut down in 2009. The company was reconstituted in its current form in May 2010.
Lifecomm demonstrated its MPERS in three formats: a wristwatch, a pendant, and a belt clip, each of which supports two-way voice and data communication over the Verizon Wireless network. When the user pushes the button--yes, there still is a panic button--or the system detects a fall, a call goes out to Lifecomm's call center, which can then conference in emergency medical services. The Lifecomm representative stays on the line until EMS arrives, then will call the device wearer's designated contacts.
The MPERS can measure wearer activity and inactivity, too, so family members and caregivers can track movement patterns though a Web portal, according to Lifecomm vice president for business development Richard Lobovsky.
The products will hit the market in the second quarter via value-added resellers, Lobovsky said.