TECH TALK – ROD EASDOWN KEEPS WATCH IN AN EMERGENCY

In his declining years my old dad lived by himself and he’d lost so much upper body strength that if he tripped he couldn’t get himself up. We checked on him several times a day and. after finding him on the floor one morning – he’d been there all night – we got him an SOS button on the neck lanyard. We found him on the floor another three or four times after that and always his SOS button was hanging neatly in the bathroom.

Is it admitting weakness to wear an SOS button or is it that older folk don’t want to be a burden? Or do they simply forget to put it on? The experience with my dad made me especially receptive to the sales patter of the SOS Mobile Watch put out by Australian company mCareWatch. Not only is it a lot less embarrassing than having a panic button around your neck, it does far more. And it looks like a watch. Hey, it even tells the time.

Further, it’s waterproof and can be worn in the shower rather than hung on the back of the bathroom door and forgotten. It has a very obvious red button on one side that, when pressed, calls three preset numbers with a distress signal. This doesn’t mean three people come running – this is the cleverness of the device. Rather they ask what the problem is. Yep, it’s also a limited mobile phone and allows conversations between it and whoever is at the other end. It doesn’t need an earpiece – it has a small speaker and microphone built-in to facilitate calling and it has its own number; anyone can call it. It can also be set up to sound reminders for pill taking.

But it doesn’t end there. It has GPS and it can be tracked. If the wearer goes wandering white wearing the watch, it’s relatively simple and fast process to call up the app and find out where they are. Here’s another clever idea. You can set up a virtual perimeter (the boffins call this a geo fence) for the person wearing the watch and when they wander outside that area, you’ll get an alarm on your phone. The watch also has a movement detector; if the wearer doesn’t move for some time an alarm can be given.

The device isn’t limited to one area as many conventional SOS buttons are, it can be used anywhere there’s mobile coverage. The only glitch I can see, and I suspect it could be pretty significant, is that it needs recharging every two or three days. It’s also pretty bulky, which would be a downer for many women.

The SOS Mobile Watch costs $598, including the SIM and set-up fee. It’s available online at mcarewatch.com.au and comes in black, white or burgundy.