Best Tech for Falls & Getting Help
Updated: Dec 30, 2019
Here we compare three technology options for getting help when you can't get to your phone:
Traditional lifeline (medical alert) services,
Home speakers with digital assistants (Google Assistant and Alexa), and
SmartWatches with interactive voice call capability.
Here you'll find a quick comparison based on:
Ease of Use
Automated fall detection (does / does not have),
Works/does not work outside the home,
Other device or service dependencies,
The cost of new subscription fees (if any), and
Ability to reach 911.
Click Here for Print Friendly Comparison Table
Consider Lifeline services if you...
Want a super simple to use, super stable device, or
Want automated fall detection, and
Are OK paying a monthly 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..
Do NOT need fall detection,
Do have home internet service with WiFi inside the home,
Do have a compatible SmartPhone or Tablet,
Want to avoid a new monthly service subscription cost, and
It's worth it just to be able to call Family and Friends for help.
**911 only accepts calls from your landline or your mobile phone. You cannot call call 911 through your home speaker over the internet. However, with Echo Speakers in the United States, you can turn your Echo speaker(s) into a hands-free speaker for you home phone. This means Alexa can call 911 (in most locations in the U.S.) by using your home phone line.**
Consider a Direct Connect SmartWatch if you...
Do NOT need automated fall detection,
Want a safety net both inside and outside the home,
You already pay for a monthly SmartPhone service plan with data services.
At the time of writing, most SmartWatches connect to the mobile network through your SmartPhone. The watch is an extension of the phone which means you need keep the SmartPhone nearby. However, three Direct Connect SmartWatches are available in North America. Direct connect watches let you make and receive phone calls directly from your SmartWatch - you can leave your SmartPhone at home! They 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.
Find more detail about these SmartWatches under the Technology Feature posts on SmartWatches.
Click here to get a printable chart of the pros & cons for each option above, or read on.
PROS & CONS
Traditional Lifeline, Medical Alert Services
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.
Ongoing subscription costs of $30-$50 per month for in-home services, $75-$90 per month for services that works outside the home.
Feelings of stigma.
Frequently left in a 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.
Home Speakers Google Home & Amazon's Echo Dot with Alexa
Lowest Cost Option: Mini speaker models under $80cdn or $50us with frequent promotional discounts.
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)
NO automated fall detection.
Some learning curve
Cannot call 911 (Some exceptions in the U.S.; see below).
Modem and speakers sometimes require a reset (work most of the time but not all of the time).
Requires a compatible iPhone, SmartPhone, Tablet or iPad to set-up and manage the speaker.
Direct Connect SmartWatches - Leave the phone at home
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
CONS: SmartWatches with Voice Calling
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 (Only the Apple Watch Series 2 & 3 support use in the shower).
SmartPhone service subscription upgrade 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.
Things to consider when looking at subscription costs
Monthly cellular service plans with data may appear high, but if you're considering a lifeline alert service subscription, the costs are often similar. You may end up paying the same or more than a full cellular service plan if you subscribe to both basic mobile phone service and a lifeline service plan.
If you live in the United States, you may have access to AT&T's cellular watch service plan- no SmartPhone service plan required. The the time of writing, the plan cost $50 per month to give your eligible SmartWatch its own telephone number and connect directly to the network.
Click here to get a printable chart of the pros & cons Wishing you the best,