It is widely known that mobile phones can serve as life-saving gadgets during emergencies, enabling the victim communicate with friends , relatives or hospitals. The truth however is that it is not being widely used by high-risk individuals such as elderly people who suffer from chronic diseases and other age-related disorders.
A new device has now been launched, that provides users with the benefit of instant wireless communication and location detection, surpassing the complications of normal cell phones. The small and simple device that has been launched for commercial use as a part of the MobilAlarm project (funded by the European Commission) would allow users to call to a service center, in case of an emergency.
Details about the location of the victim with accuracy of 50 metres or less can be obtained satellite positioning via GPS. The device, which weighs less than 100 gm is easy to handle, and user friendly. The device looks just like a mobile phone with four large and clearly discernible buttons.
'The design is very simple, it doesn't have all the functions of a mobile phone, but that is what trial users most liked about it,' said Stefan Lilischkis, the MobilAlarm project manager.
Promising results have been obtained from the trials that have been conducted amongst elderly users in the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany. The users were given the device for a minimum period of three months. The device attracts adherents by its simple design and superior hearing quality.
Although mobile phone use among people over 65 years of age continue to increase in Europe, it still remains much lower. This could perhaps be due to the complexity of handling modern phones that are being marketed by communication companies. The small text displayed in interfaces is difficult to read. In addition, the presence of small buttons makes it hard to use, having a profound impact on the ease and speed with which an elderly person can contact someone when they are in need.
The presence of chronic diseases such as Parkinson's disease that impairs motor skills or age-related frailty further complicates the issue. All these problems are overcome in the unique device designed to incorporate all essential in the event of an emergency.
The two large buttons on the side initiate a call to the service centre when pressed simultaneously. The device allows a user to make an emergency call by simply gripping the device, rather than having to find and press a button, which means that a person with impaired motor skills can also operate the device.
Another separate button helps initiate a call to a pre-programmed telephone number (of a friend, neighbour or relative). The enhanced audio features enable the user to hear the responder without being held up to the ear. Canceling a call that has been made is enabled through yet another button.
'When an emergency call is placed to a service centre the operator who takes the call automatically receives the user's file on their computer, and, if necessary, can use the GPS tracking to obtain information about the location of the person on an electronic map. This is particularly important if emergency services are to find them quickly, especially if the person does not know where they are or are having difficulty speaking,' said the project manager.
'Whereas existing mobile devices with location detection capabilities typically transmit GPS data via an SMS message, the MobilAlarm system uses the Care Phone Protocol developed by project partner Attendo Systems that transmits the data through the voice channel. This ensures that the information arrives instantly, compared to an SMS message which can take minutes or even hours to arrive depending on network traffic,' he concluded.
Although the prime target of the marketing would be elderly people and those who suffer from chronic diseases, MobilAlarm can also be used by disabled but otherwise healthy people and victims of domestic violence or people involved in work that involves transfer of hazardous stuff to remote locations.