What will happen when telecom providers upgrade to 5G?
Caring for older adults posed unique challenges in 2020 and has continued to do so in 2021, not just because of the pandemic. In addition to normal health care needs, care providers have had to adapt to protect older adults from the virus. With friends and family members unable to visit, nurses and caregivers have worked overtime to meet the needs of older patients and residents. They’ve had to create new ways for families to remain connected via technology or through windows. And one technology in particular has made it possible to monitor the health and safety of older adults at home or in care facilities remotely—mobile personal emergency response systems (mPERS). However, the transition to 5G mobile technologies could soon pose a threat to these devices.
mPERS can describe a variety of different types of devices from watches and pendants to small simple function phones. What makes these devices unique is they all feature an easy-to-use SOS button that an individual can press in case of emergency to reach a family member, caregiver, medical provider, or even an emergency call service that can respond to the event. Some mPERS devices also have fall detection capabilities that can automatically trigger a call for help. And thanks to cellular connectivity, these personal emergency response systems that used to be only a speaker box and pendant that could only function within the home are now mobile and able to provide protection anywhere. For now, that is.
As telecom providers prepare to upgrade networks to new 5G capabilities and remove 3G services, some of these devices may become obsolete. Many panic button devices were designed using 3G or even 2G and Enhanced Data GSM Evolution (EDGE) technologies because the data being transferred by the device are light and don’t require the higher speeds of a 4G network, let alone 5G. As networks are upgraded, 2G and 3G devices could lose coverage and become less reliable. This is because telecom companies will be trading out the 2G and 3G technologies on cell phone towers for faster 4G and 5G technologies. Panic buttons operating on 2G or 3G networks will not be compatible with the new network speeds and their functionality could experience drops in coverage in areas where 2G and 3G coverage no longer exists.
For example, Verizon eliminated its 3G networks at the end of 2020, and AT&T is working through a plan to sunset 3G by 2022. Ericsson, an information communication technology company that installs 5G technologies on cell phone towers, predicts that by 2023 20% of the world’s population will have 5G coverage. While the cellular upgrades will infinitely speed heavy data transfers such as streaming video, the problem that exists for the mPERS industry and end users is that 4G and 5G devices have yet to be widely introduced to the mass market.
Keeping Up With the Times
The basic functionality of panic button devices hasn’t required rapid advancement of the technology that powers their operation. This and other factors affecting the mPERS industry have resulted in a device drought and slow efforts to upgrade older 3G mPERS devices. Now, manufacturers are forced to catch up with changing networking standards in order to continue to provide the safety and peace-of-mind customers rely on from their devices.
Medical providers who recommend mPERS devices to their patients and adult care facilities that rely on them ensure the safety and well-being of residents need to know if the devices will become unreliable as network upgrades are made. This can be accomplished by contacting the device manufacturers or the companies providing monitoring services for the devices. If it’s discovered that devices are operating on 2G or 3G networks, it would be wise to upgrade the mPERS devices as soon as possible. Discuss options with service providers to turn in existing devices for 4G models.
For existing devices that are in use in facilities or patients’ homes, implementing a regular testing schedule to ensure the devices are operational and have coverage is imperative. Devices should be triggered weekly to ensure that SOS messages are being transmitted. This simple test would only take a few seconds and would quickly determine if backup safety measures need to be taken or if the panic buttons can be relied on. Users may find that mPERS devices being used in more rural areas will continue to have 2G or 3G coverage, while those in urban areas will lose coverage sooner. This is simply because of the tendency for telecom companies to upgrade towers in urban areas with dense populations and large business centers first.
Transitioning from 2G or 3G panic buttons to 4G devices could come with an added cost. But it’s an essential upgrade to ensure ongoing protection. Security companies and medical alert monitoring companies should be contacting customers to alert them if their 3G devices will soon become obsolete. Unfortunately, there are no options other than upgrading to a new device, but providers may be offering incentives to help transition customers, such as free months of monitoring coverage, for example. Knowing this, medical professionals can advise customers to ask coverage providers what incentives are available for an upgrade, and care facilities can know that they may have options for negotiation as well.
Markets and Markets predicts that North America will account for the largest medical alert system market share increases from 2020 to 2025. In addition, a 2020 research study by Parks Associates estimates more than 5 million consumers in the United States will own an mPERS device by 2024. America’s increasing aging population is only one factor that accounts for the growth of the mPERS market. The pandemic has highlighted and sped the adoption of another factor, telemedicine.
While having to upgrade to 4G devices will present challenges for end users, medical professionals, monitoring companies, and device manufacturers, the transition will also create opportunities for improved care. More advanced mPERS devices that are in development and entering the market can do more than just monitor for falls, location, and place emergency SOS calls. These new devices also are capable of monitoring heart rate, ECG, temperature, and other vital signs that can support improved remote patient monitoring.
Imagine, for example, an older adult living facility where all residents have mPERS devices in their living quarters in case they need to call for emergency assistance. Upgrading to more advanced 4G mPERS devices will alter the care spectrum potential from reactive to proactive. Nurses and medical providers in the facilities will be able to do more than merely respond to a medical emergency after it has occurred; they will be able to detect whether a resident is experiencing health changes indicating that a more serious problem could be imminent. By being able to remotely monitor more aspects of residents’ health remotely, staff will be able to provide better care by knowing more.
The same is true for medical professionals caring for patients who live in their own homes, as well as visiting nursing services, and even family members. After a patient has had a heart attack or stroke, for example, a cardiologist could recommend that the patient use an mPERS device with heart monitoring capabilities to make it possible for the doctor to remotely monitor recovery. If a patient experiences irregular heart rhythms or other signs of a future problem, the doctor can schedule a telemedicine or office visit for a more in-depth checkup. The same is true for recovery following surgeries, falls, illness, or any other health condition an individual faces.
While the transition from 3G to 4G mPERS devices will present challenges, it’s also an opportunity to improve monitoring and care for the people who rely on these devices. The timeline for making upgrades will depend on what cellular provider a device relies on for coverage, where the device is being used, and the monitoring company’s plan for transitioning devices. Medical providers should ask patients whether they use mPERS devices and whether their monitoring companies have contacted them regarding an upgrade. They should also ensure patients know to ask about network connectivity issues if they are newly acquiring a device. For companies that use mPERS devices with patients who are part of a visiting nurse program or for residents in adult living facilities, the same recommendations apply. As the aging care industry grows, mPERS will play a crucial role, and these latest upgrades are just the beginning of the potential of these devices.
— Chris Holbert is the CEO of SecuraTrac. He’s served as a CEO, COO, and CIO for privately held and publicly traded companies. Prior to starting SecuraTrac in 2008, Holbert was the COO and CIO of LaunchPad Communications, served as the CIO for North American Scientific, Inc, and held senior consulting positions for Ernst & Young, LLP and American Management Systems, Inc.
The world is consuming more data than ever before. Nearly every industry now relies on smart phones, cloud services and digital communications to execute efficient business operations. Increasing data demands have made it necessary for telecommunications companies to upgrade digital infrastructure. Enter 5G, which is designed to deliver data at faster speeds while also address the ever-increasing demand for more bandwidth and data traffic. Transitioning to 5G does create complications, however. Any business that relies on mobile personal emergency response systems (mPERS) to ensure the safety of lone workers could be losing coverage.
What are mPERS
mPERS can describe a variety of different types of devices from watches to pendants to small simple function phones. What makes these devices unique is they all feature an easy-to-use SOS button that a lone worker can press in case of emergency to reach a supervisor or even an emergency call service that can respond to the event. Some mPERS devices also have fall detection capabilities that can automatically trigger a call for help. And thanks to cellular connectivity, these personal emergency response systems are able to provide protection anywhere. For now, that is.
Why does 5G matter
As telecom providers prepare to upgrade networks to new 5G capabilities and remove 3G services, some of these devices may become obsolete. Many panic button devices were designed using 3G or even 2G and EDGE technologies because the data being transferred by the device is light and doesn’t require the higher speeds of a 4G network, let alone 5G. As networks are upgraded, 2G and 3G devices could lose coverage and become less reliable. This is because telecom companies will be trading out the 2G and 3G technologies on cell phone towers for faster 4G and 5G technologies. mPERS devices operating on 2G or 3G networks will not be compatible with the new network speeds and their functionality could experience drops in coverage in areas where 2G and 3G coverage no longer exists.
Verizon eliminated its 3G networks at the end of 2020, and AT&T is working through a plan to sunset 3G by 2022. Ericsson, an information communication technology company that installs 5G technologies on cell phone towers, predicts that by 2023 twenty percent of the world’s population will have 5G coverage. While the cellular upgrades will infinitely speed up heavy data transfers like streaming video, the problem that exists for the mPERS industry and end users is that 4G and 5G devices have yet to be widely introduced to the mass market.
How will mPERS be affected
The basic functionality of panic button devices has not required rapid advancement of the technology that powers their operation. This and other factors affecting the mPERS industry have resulted in a device drought and slow efforts to upgrade older 3G mPERS devices. Now, mPERS manufacturers are forced to catch up with changing networking standards in order to continue to provide reliable devices that businesses can implement to keep lone workers safe and connected.
What can companies do
As the 5G transition takes place, businesses that rely on mPERS devices to protect the well-being of lone workers need to know if the devices they have deployed will continue to be operational. This can be accomplished by contacting the device manufacturer or the company providing monitoring services for the device. If it is discovered that devices are operating on 2G or 3G networks, it would be wise to upgrade the mPERS devices as soon as possible. Discuss options with service providers to turn in existing devices for 4G models.
For existing devices that are currently in use, implementing a regular testing schedule to ensure the devices are operational and have coverage is imperative. Weekly, devices should be triggered to ensure that SOS messages are being transmitted. This simple test only takes a few seconds and can determine if backup safety measures need to be taken or if the mPERS devices can continue be relied on. Users may find that mPERS devices being used in more rural areas will continue to have 2G or 3G coverage, while those in urban areas will lose coverage sooner. This is simply because of the tendency for telecom companies to upgrade towers in urban areas with dense populations and large business centers first.
Transitioning from 2G or 3G panic buttons to 4G devices could come with an added cost. But it is an essential upgrade to ensure ongoing protection. New mPERS devices can also do more than monitor for falls, location and place emergency SOS calls. These new devices can also be capable of monitoring heart rate, ECG, temperature and other vital signs that can support improved employee health monitoring, creating opportunities for employers to identify potentially dangerous physical environments, proactively react and better protect the health and safety of lone workers and all employees.
When working out in the field in remote regions, it’s crucial for crews to stay in constant communication. If linemen are working alone, however, and they get into a difficult situation, it may be hours until help arrives. A device, however, offers instant communication with first responders.
Linemen often work in remote regions to restore power or rebuild or maintain infrastructure. If they are working alone, and they fall off a structure, become trapped, or are otherwise incapacitated, a lineman could be without emergency assistance for hours.
Compounding the challenge, winter weather can make line work even more hazardous due to low temperatures and severe conditions. During this time of year, it becomes even more crucial for linemen to stay in constant communication with responders, coworkers or other parties. Taking out a cell phone to make a call or sending a message on a tablet is not always possible in the field due to limited connectivity.
The Mobile Defender Mobile-S, however, can monitor a lineman’s status and immediately call for help in the event of a problem. A worker can press one button to connect with responders if possible.
The device enables two-way voice with high-power speaker or microphone with noise cancellation. Also, it offers a multi-call rotation call to up to four numbers in a series based on no response, and the sensitive microphone is capable of picking up clear voices from at least 10 ft.
mPERS solutions from SecuraTrac gives security dealers flexibility, options
SecuraTrac® announces a new integration with Micro Key Solutions central station platform and unveils a mobile personal emergency response (mPERS) device for the Verizon cellular network. SecuraTrac is now compatible with seven major alarm and central station software providers, the most of any mPERS hardware device supplier and with every major cellular service provider including Verizon (in Q4 2017), AT&T, and T-Mobile in addition to other carriers in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.
“Choosing an mPERS provider that offers a wide range of choices for central station software integrations is a huge advantage for alarm dealers,” said Chris Holbert, CEO of SecuraTrac. “Alarm dealers and resellers are able to grow their businesses more flexibly and leverage economies of scale with their central station of choice when their mPERS solution integrates with all of the major players. In addition, this flexibility extends to mergers and acquisitions in that alarm companies will not have to worry about software compatibility impacting their value or contract terms when they choose SecuraTrac.”
The latest integration with Micro Key Systems represents one instance of a larger strategy. SecuraTrac also works with MAS® (MASterMind from UTC), Bold Technologies, Secure Global Solutions, DICE®, Sentinel, and custom software integrations to enable quick and seamless new productt introductions for all SecuraTrac mPERS solutions. As a result, SecuraTrac products can be monitored by thousands of central monitoring stations including leaders in their industries: Rapid Response Monitoring, AvantGuard, National Monitoring Center, Statewide Monitoring, Alarm Central, First Alarm, Wright-Hennepin, Life Safety Monitoring and thousands of others.
In contrast other mPERS hardware providers limit the monitoring software and central stations options for their customers. This limits geographical coverage, may cause disruption and limits the flexibility alarm dealers have with their businesses as the following table illustrates.
An added benefit of SecuraTrac’s comprehensive software platform integrations is the global functionality of its products. SecuraTrac solutions work in over 120 countries across North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Australia. End users equipped with a SecuraTrac mPERS device have peace of mind that they will be covered with service almost anywhere they might travel whether it is a mile from home or to the other side of the world.
According to the research company Markets and Markets, the personal emergency response system (PERS) market is expected to grow from USD 6.61 Billion in 2017 to USD 9.22 Billion by 2023, at a CAGR of 5.7% between 2017 and 2023.
The Mobile PERS (mPERS) market is expected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. mPERS is gaining popularity as it allows senior citizens to lead a more independent and healthy lifestyle. Advancements in personal safety monitoring technology have expanded the market and provided home security dealers the opportunity to expand traditional security offerings. Decreasing use of landlines, which was the previous communication technology used in PERS units, is causing the widest reactive changes in the PERS industry, as companies have to reformulate the available communication technologies in their solutions.
SecuraTrac® develops, markets, and sells a suite of mobile safety solutions focused on improving senior and employee health and safety through mobile, location-based technology and state-of-the-art, cloud-based platforms.
SecuraTrac Introduces MobileDefender Model S Pendant
This emergency pendant includes extended battery life with new Wake on SOS feature, as well as automatic fall advisory.
SecuraTrac, a leading mobile health and safety provider SecuraTrac has introduced the MobileDefender Model S, the next-generation model of its MobileDefender emergency pendant. This new MD-S model was developed on the same platform as the original MobileDefender, but includes new capabilities and features optimized for jobsite safety.
On top of its location technologies, the MD-S device offers a built-in Fall Advisory feature which can detect horizontal and vertical movement. If an employee falls on the job or is knocked over, the MD-S will automatically trigger a call for help. It also adds the ability for Central Stations to respond to potential accidents, using SecuraTrac’s existing cloud capabilities.
The MD-S also includes the provider’s new Wake-on SOS feature, which allows the device to last over 30 days on a single battery charge. The device remains in sleep mode until its SOS button is activated, at which point it can locate itself, transmit its location, and make an emergency phone call.
Every winter, millions of people depart their homes in northern areas of the U.S. to migrate south to escape the cold. Many of them drive in cars or RVs, which means days on the road encountering potential bad weather, vehicle trouble or other risks. Cell phones are great to call for help if you have a signal and an international calling plan, but a new technology called the MobileDefender Model S can keep snowbirds directly in touch with friends, family and, if needed, first responders automatically.
The small device can be kept in the car, worn, or carried in a pocket. It has one large button that can be pressed to call for help in an emergency and it can be programmed to call family or first responders. The MobileDefender Model S functions as a two-way speakerphone so when a call is placed you can talk and listen with it. Also, the MobileDefender Model S can detect falls, auto dial for help if one is detected, and it functions as a GPS locator so family can make sure trips are going as planned.
There are quite a few wearable products out there designed to help seniors get help in an emergency. And the concept goes back a long way! Who can forget those “I’ve fallen down and can’t get up” commercials? Today, technology for emergency communication is evolving quickly. One new example is the MobileDefender Model S from SecuraTrac. It weighs about two ounces and is a little bigger than a key fob. So what’s new and different? CEO Chris Holbert says that, while it has the standard SOS button, it has several important additions:
“One is a fall advisory service. So the person, whether they’re a lone worker in an oil and gas environment or a senior in a healthcare situation, if they were to fall and remain motionless for a period of time after that, there would be an automatic call to the emergency response center. So there’s no need to push the SOS button.”
We asked SecuraTrac a bit about the technology that goes into falls detection. “The Fall Advisory notifications occur automatically (there is a period where the person carrying the device can deactivate the alarm by simply pushing the SOS button in the case of a false positive). The Fall is determined based on 3 variables all being true: 1) Impact of the fall event exceeds the threshold (measured in G-force), 2) change in angle (start and end angle) exceeds the threshold (a change of 40+ degrees as an example) and 3) the lack of motion after both of the first 2 conditions are met for a specified number of seconds (4 seconds as an example).”
Another improvement in the latest device is a long battery life. The device can be set to wake up only when the SOS button is pushed, enabling it to work for more than thirty days on a single charge. Typically, these kinds of pendants need to be plugged in every two or three days. Holbert tells us that with a future firmware update, the Model S MobileDefender will also be able to wake up from that battery-conserving mode in the event of a fall without the need for a button press.
Also new, an add on tiny pendant weighing only half an ounce with an SOS button that is waterproof. How important is that, you may ask? Think of the number of falls that take place in the shower or bath.
SecuraTrac is also planning firmware updates designed to address issues related to memory impairment or Alzheimer’s disease: “For example, we can disable the power on and off button over the air. So we can just say these devices no longer have the ability to power off with a button. What we find, because people who have memory impairment, especially in the Alzheimer’s community, have a sort of action-response pre-disposition. So when you push the power off button, it vibrates to let you know it has received the power off indication. So when they push the power off, they don’t know what they are doing necessarily, but they know that it vibrates. So they will do that over and over and over again,” says Holbert.
The ability to disable the power off button may sound simple, but can be a lifesaving feature. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America estimates that more than five million Americans may suffer from the disease. And that has an impact on many millions more loved ones and caregivers.
The MobileDefender devices also feature mobile connectivity without the need to connect to a phone. That lets them work indoors or out and enables tracking via GPS or through the use of mobile signals. The system is 3G-capable so a customer can use it indoors, outdoors, or in any of 120 different countries.
SecuraTrac sees the MobileDefender as being useful not only for seniors, but also for workers who are often on their own such as long haul truckers, field service representatives, or oil and gas field workers. The device is available through a variety of health care providers and security companies. Bay Alarm Medical is among them, along with Rescue Alert and Wright Hennepin. Monthly fees typically range between $19 and $35, depending on the service options needed.
SecuraTrac Introduces Next Generation mPERS Mobile Emergency Pendant
With large resorts and hotels, it can be difficult for managers to keep track of their workers and their safety. To help hotels and resorts with this issue, SecuraTrac, a provider of mobile health and safety solutions focused on employee well-being, announced its next generation mPERS mobile emergency pendant, the MobileDefender Model S (MD-S). The model S (MD-S) was developed on the same platform as the MobileDefender and introduces new capabilities that will help to ensure the safety of those who use the MD-S and the SecuraTrac platform.
Hotels and resorts can rely on the MD-S to relay information about employee locations while providing them with an instant connection to help if an emergency occurs. In addition to state-of-the-art location technologies, the MD-S also offers a built-in Fall Advisory capability. The MD-S can detect horizontal and vertical movement so if an employee falls on the job or is knocked over, he or she does not have to initiate a call for help. The MD-S will trigger one automatically. Leveraging existing SecuraTrac cloud-based location technology, the new MD-S adds the ability for Central Stations to respond to potential accidents.
To improve battery lifespan, the MD-S was designed with a new Wake-on SOS feature. Wake-on SOS gives this small, mobile PERS device the ability to last more than 30 days on a single charge because the device is off until the SOS button is activated. This preserves the battery while enabling the device to turn-on, locate, transmit its location, and make the emergency phone call after the SOS is activated.
“It will send a text message and an email alert to as many people as you want. So it can be their friends, their parents, or older brother, or whoever it is; and they will see exactly where they are,” Holbert further explained.
The app will update a child’s location every few minutes, and it allows children to send SOS text messages in case of emergencies, according to a press release obtained by WKMG. The release states that every 40 seconds a child is reported missing in the U.S., with about 800,000 children missing each year.
SecuraFone is available for both iPhone and Android devices. Halloween is not the only time this app would prove useful, however. It can provide added safety for children, young drivers and seniors yearlong.