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Personal safety devices: A unique opportunity for wearable technology

Personal safety devices that track a user’s location and send alerts for emergency assistance stand as a unique opportunity for wearable technologies. Underlying health issues like stroke or conditions requiring multiple medications, the potential for injuries or falls during personal activities, or impaired cognitive capabilities such as Alzheimer’s can cause personal safety concerns.

The personal emergency response system (PERS) has a wearable component by default. PERS solutions include a wearable pendant, watch or belt clip with a panic button that the wearer can press to call for help. PERS providers have incorporated new technologies, such as GPS, fall detection sensor, and mobile apps, which have expanded PERS services from responding to emergency calls to proactively managing personal safety and emergency situations. As a result, the market has expanded from fragile seniors who live alone to schoolchildren, boomers with fragile health conditions, night-shift employees, lone workers and outdoorsy hikers.

PERS wearable technology

We believe that the personal safety market opportunity is much larger than the traditional PERS market. The latter serves about two million users in the U.S. today, and PERS users are concentrated in the much older and fragile demographics that are also economically constrained due to a fixed income. Personal safety monitoring, on the other hand, serves broader demographics and a much larger addressable market.

  • In a 2013 study, the National Association of State Boards of Education found that more than 15 million students — including approximately 3.7 million middle schoolers — are alone and unsupervised between 3 and 6 p.m., the peak hours for juvenile crime.
  • Women make up about 47% of the U.S. workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2013 that 12.7% of all violent crimes against women were committed while the victim was working or on duty.
  • According to Omnilink, about 23 million U.S. employees work alone in a high-risk environment.

Personal safety monitoring can be enhanced through smartphone-connected wearables or wearables with embedded cellular connectivity, creating a promising market. Through these devices, an SOS alert can be sent in a timely and discreet manner to deter crimes or minimize personal injuries.

This wearables-inspired opportunity faces competition from mobile app/service-based business models, such as Life360, a mobile app that allows family members to track other members’ whereabouts and alert each other when loved ones leave or arrive at a specified location. Despite this competitive threat, wearables as an always-on, easily-retrievable and discreetly-usable option have practical value and advantages over solutions tethered to a smartphone that people may not carry with them all the time or are unable to use in an emergency situation.

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