Connected PERS devices to quadruple by 2017

By Jonah Comstock
Numera Home Hub

The Numera Home Hub is connected to AT&T's cellular network.

Harry Wang, director of health and mobile product research at Parks Associates, believes M2M, cellular-connected devices for home monitoring and, especially, aging in place, are ripe to take off in the next few years.

In a column at E-Commerce Times, Wang shared some new Parks data about the role of machine to machine computing (M2M) in aging in place technology, likely from his forthcoming report "Independent Living at Home: Second Edition."

Parks sees aging in place and remote home monitoring as the two largest growth opportunities in consumer health for M2M. The firm estimates there are about 18 million caregivers in the United States. More than a third of them would pay for a fall detection service and more than a quarter would pay for telehealth or location tracking services, Wang wrote.

M2M technology offers advantages over traditional personal emergency response system (PERS) devices that the firm predicts will drive growth in adoption of M2M computing. Cellular-connected PERS devices have boomed in the last 18 months, Wang said, for two reasons. One, many households no longer have landlines at all and need a cellular device. Additionally, if the cellular connectivity is embedded directly into a mobile panic button or wearable pendant or bracelet, seniors are able to leave the house and be truly mobile, while still being covered in the event of a fall or emergency.

"Although still a relatively small market (fewer than 400,000 cellular-enabled units will ship in 2016), it will enjoy high growth in the near term," Wang writes. "Parks Associates estimates more than 61 percent of the new PERS products shipped in 2017 in the US will feature cellular M2M connectivity, compared to only 15 percent in 2012."

This trend is being driven by two main factors, Wang suggests. On the one hand, people are living longer, but not necessarily living with better health. On the other hand, rising healthcare costs are spiking an interest in home care, diagnosis, and monitoring as a cost-saver for providers, health plans and consumers.

Wang lists some examples of carrier partnerships with M2M devices, including AT&T working with Glowcap-maker Vitality, Telcare's wireless glucose monitor, now working with Telenor (the company was previously connected via T-Mobile), and Sprint working with both Ideal Life and BodyMedia on chronic disease management and fitness, respectively.