Most of you who’ve lived through the late ‘80s and ‘90s can’t distinctly recollect those Life Alert commercials with Mrs. Fletcher yelling, “Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” Lo and behold, the catchphrase would go on to become a pop culture phenomenon throughout the United States. Since then, there have been numerous attempts to develop solutions geared towards providing the elderly real-time support in the event of an emergency, especially when they’re unable to reach a phone. And, as we enter the era of constant connectivity, it’s no wonder more brands are turning to ARM-based wearable technology to help bring senior citizens online.
Inspired by her own 80-year-old mother who refuses to wear some of today’s bulky emergency alert products, UnaliWear CEO Jean Anne Booth decided to take matters into her own hands. Not only are a number of gadgets available today socially stigmatizing and downright ugly, they’re also limited to use in homes unless tethered to a mobile device — something many seniors do not have in their possession.
Dubbed a “Wearable OnStar for seniors,” Kanega is a stylish watch that provides discrete support for falls, medication reminders and a safeguard against wandering, as well as uses an easy-to-use speech interface rather than buttons. The Bluetooth-enabled wearable — which recently made its Kickstarter debut — is connected to a cellular network, meaning that it isn’t reliant upon Wi-Fi or having to be synced to a smartphone much like the Apple Watch or Samsung Gear.
Better yet, UnaliWear’s latest product can be worn 24/7 thanks to its waterproof casing. This allows for the band to be used in the shower or bath, where a majority of falls occur. Its well-lit display and other built-in features can even assist with issues that may arise at night, such as trips to bathroom or the kitchen for a snack.
Aesthetically it appears no different than a traditional watch, thereby eliminating the ignominy often associated with “needing” assistance. Instead, it first requests permission to speak by buzzing on a wearer’s wrist — something that will surely come in handy when in public. The device can even communicate over Bluetooth to newer generation hearing aids, as well as serve as a communications gateway for home telemedicine devices.
Shall an emergency arise, voice-activated assistance will connect you directly to a monitor who will confirm assistance should be dispatched to a location. If a user happens to activate help and doesn’t respond immediately, UnaliWear will call an emergency contact first or dispatch local medical assistance, depending on the preferences set.
At its core, the gadget is based on an Atmel | SMART SAM4L Cortex-M4 MCU and a ATWINC1500 module. While it may appear to be another smartwatch, it’s so much more. Aside from its “work anywhere” support, Kanega packs 200% more battery life, continuous speech recognition, patent-pending quick-swap batteries, GPS for proper tracking, and a 9-axis accelerometer. Detected falls trigger a watch-based query, which significantly reduces false alerts, and eliminate the need to be near a base station or smartphone.
What’s more, data is collected and sent to Verizon’s HIPAA-compliant cloud, which offers an analysis of the wearer’s lifestyle. Artificial intelligence learns the wearer’s lifestyle to determine likelihood of wandering, and updates the information on the watch — including activity and medication reminders — every night while asleep. This also helps a wearer obtain directions home or get help if they happen to stray from home.
Interested in a Kanega for a loved one in your life? Hurry over to its official Kickstarter page, where UnaliWear is currently seeking $100,000. Delivery for early backers is expected to begin in February 2016, while shipments to all other consumers slated for Summer 2016.
This blog originally appeared on Atmel Bits & Pieces.