Recently I was presented with the chance to test out a brand new product from Securus of a somewhat new variety—mobile PERS (personal emergency response system). I have had the opportunity to review multiple products from Securus in the past, all of which were of the tracking via GPS variety. You could say mobile PERS is an intriguing market and one with great growth potential. The question is: Can Securus secure a place in this market? Let’s find out.
eResponder is the company’s first foray into the mobile PERS arena. The device uses cellular GSM technology and is designed to place a call when emergencies happen with just a touch of a button. It is very simple by design, a basic black box weighing just less than one ounce, and features one button—and that’s it. In a way, I’d say simplicity works here for Securus for a few different reasons.
Priced at just under $100 (monthly fees apply), eResponder is targeting the elderly care market—which means its simplicity in both look and functionality plays well, i.e., this segment of the market just wants devices that work and don’t necessarily care for all the flashy extras.
And this single button seems to do it all. Hold this button down for two seconds and it powers up the device. With that, a purple light illuminates and makes the call to the emergency care center. Once the light turns blue you may hear a dial tone and then a call-center representative (more on that in a bit). In fact, the design is so simplistic that there isn’t even a power switch. According to Securus this is done with intent that the user cannot unintentionally turn off the device—or intentionally either (some people don’t like the idea of having a device tracking their every move).
Another feature that makes eResponder stand out is its battery life. The company says a full charge will last two months, and while my test run with the device didn’t quite last two months, the time I did spend with the device was long enough to appreciate the idea of a long-lasting battery. Similar devices that I have tested in recent months didn’t have nearly the battery life of eResponder, some of which I was charging up every few days.
eResponder is intelligent enough to shut itself down when not in use, which contributes to the longer battery life. The company says when the battery does eventually need to be charged, a red light flashes on the device to signal such an action.
What I found intriguing was the fact eResponder runs a self-diagnostic test every 24 hours to check cellular strength and battery levels. This can be a very important self-diagnostic step that works behind the scenes for end users. It also provides caretakers who would buy this device for their loved ones the peace of mind that the device is always—in essence—tuned up for optimal performance.
As I mentioned earlier, the eResponder is extremely light, coming in just a bit less than one ounce. I think this is important to note in that this means the person wearing eResponder isn’t bogged down by some clunky device. In fact, I liked how Securus even provided a few options for making this wearable more wearable.
For instance, Securus provides a lanyard if you would like to wear the device as a necklace; and it even has a belt-loop hook in case you choose to wear it around your waist. In a way, eResponder is truly a wearable by design.
On a similar note, Securus also spent time ensuring the device is waterproof with the idea that this device can be worn in the shower by users—a critical area where incidents have been known to occur with the elderly. Securus says the device has an IPX (which is a standard rating that gauges the degree of protection of a device) of four, which means you can splash as much water on it as you’d like without possible damage to the unit. I tried this out firsthand and I am happy to report that it works as advertised.
Although it’s not able to be fully submerged in water for a long period of time, you don’t have to worry about the built-in speaker or microphone getting damaged. The device also has a watertight cap that stays over the charging port and the SIM card also has another cap that is screwed into place. This makes it so the water can’t penetrate where the SIM card is located.
Now let’s take a look at the technology inside the eResponder. In somewhat of a divergence from the rest of its family of products, Securus did not equip eResponder with GPS technology. Instead the device piggybacks onto U-TDOA (uplink-time difference of arrival) network, which is a location technology used by the government. The advantages of using this technology, says Securus, is an increased level of accuracy both indoors and outdoors. However, the company does acknowledge that one disadvantage is a chance of being less accurate in rural areas.
Now on to the true test—pressing that one button and seeing if someone heeds a call for help. Upon tapping the single SOS button I was immediately greeted by a representative asking if we needed help. Although I was not in an emergency situation, the responder announced clearly who he was and asked if I needed any assistance. I told him I was only testing the unit to make sure it was working to which he responded, that all seemed to be working properly.
Let’s say I did need 911 assistance; the device would make the call to 911 and the representative would be put on hold (as 911 dispatchers can only interact with one person) and once the call has been placed and help is on the way the device switches back to the Securus representative who stays on the line until help arrives.
When it comes to the eResponder from Securus, I have one word: simple—and that is meant in a good way. Simple in design and simple in its usability.
In building a mobile PERS device that is affordable, light, and easy to use, Securus believes it has created the next step in providing peace of mind for the elderly and their loved ones. Early tests seem to show that the company might have a winner on its hands in the wearables space.