THE BLOG

Safety Technology Not Just for Seniors

07/13/2015 12:34pm ET | Updated July 13, 2016
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There are new "toys" on the market targeted to seniors. However, while these products are marketed for seniors, they are devices anyone can use for safety and recovery. Indeed, many of these new devices are aimed at anyone who walks and talks.

Some of the technology created to help people "age in place" may not be seniors at all, but those recovering from illness who would rather spend their healing time at home rather than a hospital or skilled nursing facility.

On the road

What if you were driving alone in your car anywhere outside of the city? There is no one else on the road and you have an accident. Your cell phone flew into the back seat and you can't reach it?

Scary, huh? Well there is help in the form of a small device that plugs into your formally-known-as a cigarette lighter or any make, model and year of a vehicle that has a 12-volt outlet. It is called SplitSecnd, and it has a sensor for when an automobile has a certain level of movement. It is programed with all the information about the driver, the description of the car and has a GPS to know exactly where it is.

If you have an accident and are unconscious and don't respond to a voice command in a certain amount of time, it will contact dispatch services to your exact location. If you need emergency service, they will contact it for you based on your circumstances.

If you are in a situation that is not related to an accident you can still contact the center with: "I'm really lost," to "I don't feel safe."

Safety Beyond Driving-Avoiding Accidents

Distracted driving is defined as driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving. There are three main types of distraction:

Visual: taking your eyes off the road;
Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving.

We have all heard the horrific statistics about the risk of distracted driving.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that in the U.S. every day more than 9 people are killed and about 1,153 people are injured in car crashes that involve a distracted driver.

So what if we could temporarily disable the phone while driving? No, not turn it off, but by remote control disable the sounds it makes when a call or text is coming in? A new technology is coming that will do that.

CEO Mel Taylor, says she is very passionate about SplitSecnd to help people on the road to stay safe. "We can program in all critical information about a person so that when emergency response is called, they can know in advance if the person is diabetic and be prepared for that," Taylor said.

SplitSecnd was named the most innovative tech startup benefiting the 50+ community at the 2015 AARP Health Innovation@50+ Live Pitch.

The company is private and based in Nashville, TN. It is testing its device in the U.S., Europe, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa. Traditional Plan: $99.00 for the device plus $9.95 monthly service fee. 365 Bonus Package: $199 for the device plus 12 months of pre-paid service. Contract Plan: Free device with two-year contract at $14.95 a month.

Immediate Phone Help at the Push of a Button

Suppose you or someone you care for is living alone, possibly senior or just not in great health, and you want to support their independence. You'd like to have them use a cell phone, but they just are not savvy with the latest technology.

There is a new device on the market designed just for this scenario by GreatCall.

While GreatCall offers phones along with its technology, particularly the pre-programmed flip phone with large icons, what it is really selling is 24/7 "Care Center" service, says David Inns.

Inns was in Silicon Valley recently for a "Boomer Venture Summit" conference focused on new technology and services for the over 50 set.

Inns is all about getting people out and about without fear. "We want people to feel safe about going out of the house and not worry about what may happen. We want people to live fully active lives, for themselves and their families," Inns said.

Along with the pre-programmed phones with apps that can be downloaded to any phone:

• Link will send notification when the connected device is used to call for help, it will show that the device is on or off and current power level as well as locate the device on a map. Paid with device.

• The 5Star Medical Alert app provides around the clock access to trained emergency dispatchers that can confirm the client's location and evaluate the situation, dispatch emergency services and get help. $14.99/month

• MedCoach-a free medication reminder-Free

• Urgent Care offers access to a nurse or doctor 24 /7 for quick medical advice, medical dictionary and quick consumer advice. $3.99 per call

Among the suite of devices offered is a small, pocket-size accessory that has highly sophisticated fall detection technology and a call button to ask for help any time. The fall-detector is pre-programmed with the client's location and medical information as well as a GPS tracking system that can be used anywhere.

GreatCall is a private company based in San Diego, CA. It has grown from a startup in 2006 to a company and has over 1,000 employees.

Cost:
GreatCall Splash, $49.99
Personal medical alert device with fall detection-, $19.99-34.99 per month depending on added services like fall detection, Urgent Care, 5Star and Link

Phone: Jitterbug5, $99 -- Flip phone -- No annual contracts, no cancellation fees, nationwide coverage. Inexpensive minutes and texts options starting at $14.99/month. Runs on Verizon's network.

Phone -- Jitterbug Touch3 $149.99 -- Inexpensive minutes and texts options starting at $14.99/month (plus minimum $2.49 data package required.) Runs on Verizon's network.

How About a Smart Chair

We have devices we can wear on our wrists to measure our steps and calories, football players have devices in their helmets to measure impact, soon we will have mouth guards to measure hydration. Why not a chair to measure our heart rate, biosensors to measure basic vital signs such as blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, lung sounds, blood oxygen saturation, motion and reflex response time.

It is possible and it's here. Its technology designed for the aging population and will allow ailing seniors to remain at home longer. However, it is also a device for anyone recovering from an illness.

"Sensor technology" is a generic name for a device that senses either the value or a change in a physical situation such as temperature, pressure or flow rate of a chemical.

These sensors are embedded in the "Health-e-Chair" manufactured by Commwell Medical. The chairs sensors measure the basic vital signs of an individual and those can be programmed into the system.

The basic Health-e-Chair costs $3,500 and allows individuals to self-monitor their vital signs. The data can also be transmitted to health-care professionals for an additional $3,250. The full system (including chair, bio-metric sensors and transmitter) can be leased for $595 per month.

Commwell also makes the PhysioGlove, which automatically takes 12 measurements of an electrocardiogram recordings in less than a minute. A new version of the PhysioGlove will be able to measure and transmit data such as a person's temperature, heart and lung sounds and blood pressure to their physician from anywhere worldwide. PhysioGlove can be leased for $180 per month, or purchased for $3,640.

It would be nice if we could stay safe wherever we go as well as have assistance 24/7. It would be equally nice to live at home as long as possible. It appears there are a lot of people looking out for our interests.

For some, it's "too much information" about our whereabouts -- for others it's a relief knowing my son, daughter, wife, husband, mother or father is safe. These are questions we ask ourselves as the world becomes more connected every day.