FallCall Solutions secures seed funding for Apple Watch-based PERS, fall detection

By Jonah Comstock
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Trumbull, Connecticut-based FallCall Solutions has raised a sub-$1 million seed round from Connecticut Ventures to develop a pure software-based Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) for the Apple Watch. While automated fall detecction is in the company's future pipeline, the initial launch of the app, on Apple Watch and iPhone, works as an app-based help button that can be activated by voice or touch.

"The market data that we see is that Apple has sold about 41 million Apple Watches ... and that about up to 27 to 30 percent of them are on the wrists of people over the age of 55, which surprised me," FallCall founder and President Dr. Shea Gregg told MobiHealthNews. "But if that's the case, you have 8 or 9 million Watches floating around on the wrists of people over the age of 55."

A practicing trauma surgeon, Gregg founded the company because he was frustrated with the adoption problems and social stigma associated with traditional PERS. At the same time, he was seeing more and more Apple Watches on the wrists of his geriatric patients. 

"There's a lot of people are coming out with third party devices that have their hardware and they have their proprietary software and then it can to hook up to their phone and they can get something very similar in terms of the package," Gregg said. "Everybody's trying to run down that that pathway, but you have to worry about manufacturing, distribution, the quality of the GPS. I never quite understood that model. I figured that the GPS internally on the Watch was outstanding, which it turns out it is. There were a lot of benefits to developing just a strictly software soluton, and my distribution’s taken care of and I don't have to worry about the hardware component."

The app will be free to download with an optional paid subscription service that gets users access to a 24-7 central monitoring system. Without the subscription, users can still use the help button to contact caregivers.

The funding from Connecticut Innovations, which partly comes from the Connecticut state government, will help FallCall to build out its team, hiring operations personnel and an elder tech outreach specialist. Additionally, Gregg has big plans for the future. His company is piloting a version with automated fall detection using the gyroscope and motion sensors in the Watch. The app can distinguish between falls from sitting or falls from standing to determine how urgently to escalate the call.

"Our future pipeline will have the automated fall detection once more testing has gone into it," he said. "We have a working prototype. It works you know quite well: I've gotten sensitivity at 90 percent for high mechanism falls and up to 70 percent for low mechanism falls. But I want to actually test it even further and build up some more things on the Watch operating system."

After that, the company will look at getting onto the Android ecosystem and potentially launching an enterprise version of the software.