In 2018 Apple released its new Series 4 smartwatch and impressed the world by announcing that the device comes with several features akin to a medical alert unit. The previous models could already make emergency calls, but the latest version is also fitted with fall detection and a built-in electrocardiogram. This begs the question, how does the Apple Watch Series 4 fair when compared to an actual medical alert system?
One Touch Emergency Smartwatches
There are currently only two smartwatches similar to Apple’s and the are created by Medical Guardian and MobileHelp. Series 4 watches share some features with the Freedom Guardian and MobileHelp Smart, but the way that they are designed clearly sets their separate target audiences apart.
Similar to a medical alert help button, Apple’s device is capable of initiating an SOS call in a peril by pressing the touchscreen. There is a list of default contacts – such as 911 and country-specific services – but custom contacts can be added as well with adjustable priorities to set which will be number one. What makes this feature truly unique is that the smartwatch sends the contact a text message with your current location attached, so that they will know where to send the emergency personnel.
This system is a great backup, but still secondary to the safety of a professional monitoring service provided by medical alert companies. If you happen to sustain an injury or have a stroke, selecting and activating the app takes too long, while a medical alert smartwatch sports a physical button that’s easy to reach.
It’s also worth mentioning that after calling 911 or the local hospital, the wearer of the Apple smartwatch then has to explain the situation, which obviously isn’t possible if you are having a seizure or struggling with a stroke. On the other hand, a medical alert smartwatch has trained operators that will do the talking for you, meaning everything is taken care of after pushing the button. The point here definitely goes to medical alert systems.
The Reliability of Fall Tracking
For years, fall detection has been a concept exclusive to medical alert pendants. However, the Apple Watch Series 4 not only includes a similar feature but Apple boasts 100% accuracy when it comes to determining false alarms; this is a bit of an overconfident statement considering that no technology is failproof. Although the company hasn’t gone too deep into technical details, it claimed that the smartwatch relies on gyroscopes and accelerometers to pick up signs of a fall – just as a fall detection pendant does.
These similarities indicate that the wristwatch also has blind spots and can fail to register falls in certain circumstances. For example, the official description says that you need to lie unresponsively for 60 seconds to trigger the automated emergency message, but when someone hurts themselves after a hard fall they will likely roll around in pain, misleading the device. As such, it’s unlikely the Smart Watch will offer any advantage over a medical alert watch, and so the two systems are equal in reliability.
Like MobileHelp Smart, the Series 4 smartwatch has a built-in electrocardiogram that measures the wearer’s heart rate and catalogs it. This is very convenient for seniors and patients who need to perform the process multiple times a day.
The corresponding app not only stores the data but also shares it with health practitioners or caregivers via a text message. Unfortunately, the feature wasn’t available at launch and smartwatch users outside of the U.S. had to wait even longer to get their hands on it. Nevertheless, only Apple and MobileHelp offer the feature right now, but it’s easy to see how more medical alert companies will add an ECG to their own smartwatches in the future.
The Apple Watch 4 Might Revolutionize the Medical Alert Industry
It’s undeniable that putting fall tracking and alert messaging functions into a smartwatch grants an extra level of safety, but at the same time recommending such an advanced gadget to seniors is definitely unwise. Still, the arrival of Apple’s redesigned smartwatch likely heralds a new era in the medical alert world. Even though the watch in itself won’t substitute a personal emergency response device, the fact that Apple has implemented several key features into its hot new product will surely be a wake-up call for medical alert companies.
Medical Guardian and MobileHelp offer similar yet more streamlined devices, but we hope that other providers will take the cue as well and develop their own take on the device. If medical alert smartwatches were to expand their possibilities and add in more features, then the next generation of independence-loving seniors would be safer than ever.
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