At CES 2018 this week, Samsung Electronics America and MobileHelp, a maker of home and wearable medical alert devices, announced a collaboration that would bring mobile personal emergency response capabilities to Samsung Gear S3 smartwatches.
Called MobileHelp Smart, the devices integrate MobileHelp’s platform into a modified version of Samsung’s watch, taking advantage of its fitness-monitoring features, GPS, and cell capabilities.
“I think we had to wait for someone like Samsung to get good enough at the technology to build something so small, but still have a full-blown cellphone imbedded in it, and [let us] do a stand-alone safety app,” Rob Flippo, CEO of MobileHelp, said during an on-stage session at the trade show. “Now we’ve reached that point.”
When a wearer presses the help button on the watch’s interface, a call is made to a trained operator who works to determine the scope of the emergency. What’s key to the system, Flippo explained, was that it remain easy to use for customers.
“One of the things … we have to be really cognizant of is that a lot of our customers are seniors and things need to be really simple,” Flippo said. “Our standard solutation has one button on it, and a power button, so we said that it needs to be equally simple. With the help of [Samsung’s] engineering team, we’ve been able to essentially hijack one of the buttons so that when you press it, it activates the alarm. From that point on, it’s in an automated mode where the response center will connect to the device through the cellphone capability, the device picks it up in autoanswer mode so that you don’t have to accept the call, it hangs up the call, so the user doesn’t have to do anything else to interact with the device. … As simple as that is, it took a lot of work to make it that simple."
Dr. David Rhew, chief medical officer and health of healthcare and fitness at Samsung, agreed, noting that this priority extended to the design of the hardware and its interface as well.
“We realized that it’s not just about the great functionality, it’s about the user experience, understanding what makes it easier,” Dr. David Rhew, said during the show. “There was a lot of work on our end thinking about the user experience, how to simplify it and make it easier. I think that’s been a good learning experience for us.”
While this iteration of the MobileHelp Smart will be available for purchase within the quarter, the two speakers also discussed the possibility of similar devices that make use of the Gear S3 or other Samsung watches’ various sensors and capabilities. Such products, able to sift through collected data and potentially make an emergency call before the wearer thinks to press the button, are “absolutely on the roadmap for the future,” Flippo said. Rhew shared a similar sentiment, and noted the potential benefits that could come with a disease-specific version of the consumer wearables.
“I really think that down the road we’re going to start seeing some of these devices become even more personalized so that it becomes specific for your condition,” Rhew said. “Instead of one-size-fits-all, we’ve got methods in there, the technology flexible enough where you can have for an [individual] condition.”