Mobile personal emergency response systems (MPERS) help monitor elderly patients, but younger users will also benefit from the technology, according to Tim Smokoff, the CEO of Numera, which makes the Libris device.
The Libris incorporates two-way voice, automated fall detection and location tracking as well as telehealth capabilities. Users can send measurements from biometric devices through a Numera Net gateway cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to the Numera Net Home Hub, where caregivers and family members can access the data.
AT&T is offering Numera's Libris MPERS as part of a managed service for doctors and health insurers.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Philips also announced an MPERS product called Lifeline GoSafe, which offers fall-detection capabilities and allows seniors to stay connected to caregivers through multiple location-tracking technologies and two-way cellular voice communication.
Users of PERS devices have been mostly elderly, female and living alone, according to a March survey of 1,114 Americans aged 55 to 100+ by research firm Aging in Place Technology Watch and Link-age Connect, an organization of senior-living communities.
Of PERS users surveyed, 57 percent were between ages 85 and 89.
This market is growing, however.
"Our research indicates the traditional base of users is expanding to include more mobile and active users who want to track their biometrics and other health information," Laurie Orlov, principal analyst at Aging in Place Technology Watch, said in a statement. "This type of information can be collected, for instance, through the Numera Libris platform."
Smokoff also sees MPERS being used by younger users.
"We certainly see MPERS getting younger," Smokoff told eWEEK. As the device shifts from a unit used inside the home for tasks, such as fall detection, to outside, the device could gain a younger set of consumers, he suggested.
MPERS can also help people manage chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Using Bluetooth, the Libris incorporates sensors to communicate with weight scales, blood pressure cuffs and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines that help people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), Smokoff said.
The data travels from a weight scale over a cellular network to Numera's FDA-cleared Gateway, where a caregiver receives the information.
Devices such as iLoc Technologies' TriLoc Personal Locator Device watch could help the MPERS category expand to a younger audience. The TriLoc incorporates GPS functionality and allows caregivers to track people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), dementia and Alzheimer's disease. It's also designed for people in distress and workers that operate alone.
Lifecomm, a subsidiary of Verizon Telematics, is also developing a wrist-worn MPERS device.
The compact wrist-worn form factor for MPERS is ideal for individuals with chronic conditions that need to be tracked but want the device unnoticeable, according to Smokoff.
"A lot of folks would rather have the device be not apparent," Smokoff said. "They don't want to broadcast that they may have a health condition or some other issue."
The MPERS model may also expand into a body-worn system of sensors, Smokoff said.
"We've seen a lot of interest in using Libris in a body-worn hub, where it can collect information from a variety of sensors," Smokoff said. Data from the sensors would then connect to electronic health record platforms.