Safety Nets for Falls - A Quick Comparison of Technologies

Earlier posts profile three safety net technologies for getting help should you fall and can't get to a phone:

  1. Traditional lifeline (medical alert) services,

  2. Home speakers with digital assistants (Google Assistant and Alexa), and

  3. SmartWatches with interactive voice capability.

Here you'll find a quick comparison to help you decide which is right for you. Primary considerations are:

  1. Ease of Use

  2. Has/does not have automated fall detection,

  3. Works/does not work outside the home,

  4. Other device or service dependencies,

  5. The amount of new subscription fees (if any), and

  6. Ability to reach 911 (call more than friends and family).

Click Here for Print Friendly Comparison Table


Key TakeAways

Consider Lifeline services if you...

1. Want a super simple to use, super stable device, or

2. Want automated fall detection, and

3. Are OK with a monthly basic service fee of $30-50 for in-home service.

Consider a Google Home Speaker (with Google Assistant) or an Amazon Echo Speaker (with Alexa) if you...

1. Do NOT need fall detection,

2. Do have home internet service with WiFi inside the home,

3. Do have a compatible SmartPhone or Tablet, and

4. Want to avoid a new monthly service subscription cost, and 5. You are OK with NOT being able to call 911.

911 only accepts calls from your landline or your mobile phone so you cannot call 911 from your home speaker. However, in the United States, you can call 911 by adding an Echo Connect to your home landline. The Echo Connect turns your Echo Speaker into a hands-free speaker for your home phone.

Consider a Cellular "Direct Connect" SmartWatch with interactive voice capabilities if you...

1. Do NOT need automated fall detection,

2. Want a safety net both inside and outside the home,

3. Have a compatible SmartPhone and use it regularly, and

4. You already pay for a monthly SmartPhone service plan with data services.

Note 1: At the time of writing, the three cellular watches with direct connect cellular voice calling in North America are:

In Canada: The Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS & Cellular

In the USA: The Apple watch Series 3 with GPS & Cellular, the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier, and the LG Watch Sport through AT&T.


Pros & Cons

Traditional Lifeline/Medical Alert Service Pros

  • Simplicity, super easy to use.

  • Automated fall detection options.

  • Can wear in the shower.

  • 24*7 support for triage and contacting 911, family or friends.

  • A few other uses: med reminders and adjunct services.

Lifeline (Medical Alert) Service Cons

  • Ongoing subscription costs ~$30-$50 per month for in-home services, $75-$90 per month service that also works outside the home.

  • Feelings of stigma.

  • Frequently left in drawer, not worn.

  • Purpose built for calling a support center with the press of a button; few other uses and cannot use to call other parties.


Digital Assistants Inside Home Speakers:

Google Home & Amazon Echo Dot with Alexa

  • Lowest Cost Option: Mini speaker models under $80cdn or $50us

  • No stigma, simple, easy to use, fun technology

  • Call family or firends hands-free by voice command.

  • Call 911 by voice command in the USA with Amazon Echo products (not available in Canada).

  • Talk to the assistant from the shower (speaker can be anywhere in the room)

  • Numerous other uses - Med reminders, cooking timers, Internet search by voice (traffic, weather, info...), Smart Home Controls (lights, door locks etc.)

  • No subscription fees (though do need home internet service)

Home Speaker Cons

  • NO automated fall detection.

  • Small learning curve

  • Cannot call 911 (unless you live in the United States, have a home phone, and use the Echo product line).

  • Modem and speakers sometimes require a reset.

And If you don't have a compatible iPhone, SmartPhone or Tablet...

  • Requires a SmartPhone investment to set up Echo speakers and the Alexa app's calling features, or

  • Requires either a SmartPhone or tablet investment to set up Google Home.


Cellular SmartWatch Pros

  • No stigma, simple, cool tech

  • Call family or friends hands-free by voice command.

  • Call 911 by voice command

  • Numerous other uses (watch specific): Med reminders, cooking timers, location tracking and alerts for wandering risk, heart rate sensors & more.

  • Low incremental subscription fee of $5-15 per month if adding to an existing monthly mobile service plan that includes data services.

  • Can wear the Apple Watch Series 3 in the shower

SmartWatch Cons

  • NO automated fall detection.

  • Bigger learning curve for some.

  • Daily battery recharging (for 1-2 hours on average)

  • Android compatible cellular watches are not supported for use in the shower (Everything other than the Apple Watch 3)

  • Subscription costs if you don't already have a monthly mobile voice & data services plan

  • Most mobile service companies charge a $5-10 add-on fee to a bundled SmartPhone service plan for voice, text, and data. If you don't currently have data services, or if you have a low-cost prepaid plan, you will need to subscribe to a more costly monthly service plan.

Note 2: Monthly cellular service plans cost roughly the same as the subscription for a traditional Lifeline service with cellular connectivity for outside the home.

Note 3: If you live in the United States, you may have access to AT&T's cellular watch service plan (no SmartPhone service plan required) for ~$50 per month.


For more information, see related blog post links below

Click Here for Print Friendly Comparison Table

Wishing you the best,