GreatCall adds fall detection from BioSensics to personal emergency device

By Jonah Comstock
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GreatCall SplashSan Diego, California-based GreatCall, which makes easy to use smartphones and flip phones for seniors, has added automated fall detection to GreatCall Splash, the company's waterproof mobile personal emergency response (mPERS) device. When the technology detects a fall, it will contact trained operators at GreatCall's 5Star urgent response service.

The company is partnering with Cambridge, Massachusetts-based BioSensics, whose PAMSys technology is powering the fall detection feature. It combines a tri-axis accelerometer with an algorithm that spots sudden changes in body movement in relation to the user’s normal physical activity and posture, and identifies falls when they happen. The technology was developed at the University of Arizona with support from the National Institutes of Health. 

“As GreatCall continues to build its portfolio of active aging solutions, we see automated fall detection as a priority for keeping our customers safe, healthy and independent,” said Dean Williams, Vice President of Technology, GreatCall. “We are partnering with BioSensics to bring the best fall detection technology available to our Splash devices. Our customers depend on the integrity of our health and safety solutions, and this technology enables us to deliver on our commitment.”

The 5Star agents can converse with the person who fell through the device and can send help if needed. In case of a fall, the device can also send a push notification to the smartphone of a family member or caretaker who has GreatCall's Link app on their smartphone. Fall detection will be available to GreatCall customers as part of a package deal available for $34.99 per month.

Many of GreatCall's competitors in the mPERS space already offer automatic fall detection features. AT&T EverThere launched in December 2013 with fall detection technology from Numera, but it seems EverThere is now longer in service. And Philips launched its long-awaited GoSafe mPERS last fall, also with built-in fall detection. It now runs on the AT&T network. Smaller companies offering fall detection include Amulyte, a small Y-Combinator-backed Canadian startup and CareBeacon, a software-only product that aims to build an mPERS with fall detection right into the user's smartphone.

Last fall, GreatCall partnered with AliveCor to make the latter company's smartphone ECG available to GreatCall customers. Prior to that, the company teamed up with Rite Aid to put GreatCall phones into 4,000 Rite Aid stores and preload Rite Aid's pharmacy app onto a number of GreatCall phones.