Those, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials aren’t the least bit amusing if you or a loved one deals with old age or physical disabilities. My father, for example, is a stroke survivor, and anything that makes his life easier and/or safer is a good thing. That’s where the V.ALRT Personal Emergency Alert Device comes in.Most alert notification systems require you to purchase the necessary hardware and then have a monthly subscription that needs to be paid to the monitoring company. When there is an issue, the notification goes to the main office and they, in turn, contact emergency services or a predetermined emergency contact.
What makes the V.ALRT Personal Emergency Alert Device so compelling is that you purchase the hardware and then, rather than connecting you to a central monitoring service, it leverages the power of your loved ones smartphone. In an emergency, it is the smartphone that makes contact. There’s no monthly subscription, and there is no need to deal with any sort of middleman. Instead, when there is an issue the system sends a message from the person using its cell phone to one of three different contacts. The approach is not without its limitations, but it does what it does quite well. Let’s take a look at the hardware, the process of setting it up, and the experience of using it in a mock emergency. The product describes itself this way:
Get the freedom you want, knowing you’re connected to help whenever you need it. Ideal for cyclists, joggers, active individuals and especially children on the go.
In other words, this system is as much about keeping a constant potential connection with your children as it is with connecting you to anyone else.
The core of the V.ALRT Personal Emergency Alert Device is a round button-like device. There are no visible controls nor any port for connecting a charger. To turn on the system you press the center of the button and hold it for at least 10 seconds. That puts the device into pairing mode, and the Bluetooth 4.0 ultra low power connectivity becomes visible to the device to which you will be pairing it. It also works for up to a year without needing to be recharged.
The V.ALRT, Personal Emergency Alert Device, is an ergonomically designed device that can be carried discreetly in a pocket or a bag, worn on the wrist with the included band or around the neck as a pendant. Using Bluetooth® SMART (Bluetooth 4.0 LE) technology in association with a software application from VSN Mobil, the V.ALRT initiates calls and text messages from a smartphone. With the push of a button, the V.ALRT pings the smartphone to send personalized texts to three pre-selected contacts. The customizable message will indicate that help is needed and also provide location information using the GPS feature on the smartphone (when available). The V.ALRT application can also be set to initiate a follow-up phone call from the smartphone to get the attention of the recipient.
I triggered and alerts manually, and it immediately sent a text message to the emergency contact – in this case my wife Elana. It also delivered a message, “I’ve fallen and I… Oh no!”. A few seconds after I sent it she came in and told me I wasn’t amusing. (That’s true.)
The V.ALRT has a wireless range of up to 75’ indoor or up to 300’ outdoor thanks to Bluetooth 4.0 LE. Compatible with iPhone 4S/iOS7 or later or any smartphone with Android 4.3 or newer with Bluetooth 4.0, it gets up to one year of battery life thanks to a standard CR-2032 watch battery.
Specifications of the V.ALRT Personal Emergency Alert Device
- Size: 1.3 inches (32 mm) diameter, 0.4 inches (10 mm) thickness
- Weight: 0.3 ounces or 8 grams
- Environment: Waterproof up to 1 meter for 30 minutes
- Battery Life: Up to one year depending on use
- Battery Type: Pre-inserted and replaceable CR2032 battery (commonly available)
- Range: Bluetooth 4.0 technology allows for a range of up to 75 feet indoors and up to 300 feet outdoors between the V.ALRT and smartphone
- Accessories: Wristband and pendant/keychain included inbox (Neck strap is not included)
- Smartphone Platforms: Apple iOS and Google Android (see device compatibility)
If you are looking for a rudimentary alert notification system and don’t want to pay a monthly subscription fee, then this is an interesting option. It is not, however, without its limitations. For example, while some systems allow the user to speak to someone in the central monitoring station when an alert is triggered and let them know what the problem is, this system simply sends out an alert or initiates a call. It doesn’t let the person receiving the alert know what the nature of the emergency is. In addition, the hardware requirements mean the person using the monitoring system needs to have a certain type of smartphone, needs to be within 75 foot range of notification pendant, and needs to have the device turned on. If any of these three key areas are not met, the system isn’t usable for at least functioning properly. Finally, the person using the system needs to actually wear the device and, if triggering an alert other than “fall detection”, they must press the center if there is emergency. These are serious limitations that make the V.ALRT, Personal Emergency Alert Device more suited to a young person riding a bike than an elderly and/or infirm individual. I can, however, see some uses in the latter situations, and I am curious to see what my father thinks of this system and whether it might be of use to him.
My recommendation is this – think carefully about what your safety needs are, the limitations of this particular approach, and where your needs and these limitations may come into conflict. If there isn’t all that much crossover, the V.ALRT, Personal Emergency Alert Device worth looking into this. After all, it’s under $50 and there’s no monthly monitoring fee.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
MSRP: $79.99 but currently $59.99
What I Like: Small; Flexible ways to wear and use; Requires no monthly fee; Can contact three different people
What Needs Improvement: Hardware requirements may not be met by older users; Limited information sent when an alert is triggered by the V.ALRT Personal Emergency Alert Device