Philips Lifeline achieves passivity

By Brian Dolan
04:00 pm
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By Laurie Orlov, Aging In Place Technology Watch

Spring has sprung for new and improved tech. Companies in the tech arena of supporting seniors and their caregivers are sporting fresh features and new companies have decided to shake off winter and launch at the Chicago ASA Conference. Each of these announcements is a significant one -- viewed collectively, 2010, as predicted, is already an interesting year -- and it's only March!

Philips Lifeline adds a passive fall detection feature. Philips Lifeline launched an upgraded PERS (aka Medical Alert) service that includes passive fall detection -- similar to the capability included in products from Halo Monitoring launched in January 2009 and Wellcore, launched in January 2010. Lifeline "customers will have an additional $13/month option to add automatic fall detection to their button. If they fall and can’t push their buttons, call agents will automatically receive a call. The technology works by measuring the direction, velocity, height and impact of the subscriber’s movement."

Lifeline's marketing message is stark. The brochure shows an older woman face-down (presumably unconscious) on the floor and is captioned "How would you get help at a moment like this?" The website is enhanced, in case you couldn't imagine it, with an older man in the same position, face down. Perhaps the intent is direct targeting of the always charming Life Alert "I've fallen and I can't get up" messaging. At any rate, the passive fall detection is an improvement, for sure, and will especially appeal to the most worried Lifeline customer families, especially those where chronic conditions could result in falls that leave them unconscious and with the old Lifeline, perhaps unattended for some time. According to yesterday's NY Times article, however, the product, like most other PERS products, cannot be used outside the home." There is progress to push the limits of traditional PERS -- but we have a distance to go where these products need to be (simple, mobile, passive, strong battery).

Aging Technology Alliance launches at ASA/NCOA event. We've often noted that most of the innovation in tech for aging in place is coming from small vendors -- whose size equates with low visibility in the aging technology market segment. This week, a number of small vendors banded together to give themselves a boost and a voice. The new trade association (AgeTek.Org), which will be a dues-based non-profit (akin to a virtual 'chamber of commerce', says board chair Peter Radsliff of Presto). The informational meeting for those at the Aging in America event was standing room only -- with both vendors and interested non-profit organizations. AgeTek has two purposes: "to promote awareness, benefits, and value of member products and services, and to assist in the advancement of member companies and individual members." AgeTek has posted a partial list of its members -- more on this when there's more.

Other new entrants. Remote monitoring and caregiving vendors surfaced with three different takes on the need for families, providers, and caregivers to stay in touch with seniors. Emota.net announced its limited beta of its 'emotional networking' offering using a touch-screen picture frame mode for enabling communication between seniors and caregivers (both family and professional). BeClose Networks announced its wireless home monitoring offering based on sensors and a base station that builds on home security platform capability from Alarm.com. And Early Bird Alert, launching later this year, offering a customizable "home healthcare patient-centric device that enables two-way communications".

More new vendors as they emerge over the coming weeks and months. Believe me, there are plenty!

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