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What use is a PERS smart watch without a call center?

You see PERS news releases on occasion. PERS -- Personal Emergency Response System -- is a long-time market dominated by pendants worn around the neck. Recently Parks Associates sized the PERS market to be $1.1 billion by 2024 -- others think it is a $3.1 billion market today. Also early in the year, Vidapoint was announced as a 'global' low cost offering. LifeStation announced Mobile LTE, small and fast, a pendant linked to a sizable 24-hour call center.  Then in April, Verizon does it again, launches a PERS, this time a smart watch offering, called the Care Smart Watch for seniors.   Let us remember Verizon’s last short attention span for this space. Its Sureresponse™ PERS pendant was new in this research conducted in 2012. The quotes are from executive Jonathan Hinds who departed in 2014, not coincidentally when Verizon stopped selling it. Sureresponse was mostly erased from the Internet by 2016, except for user documentation,  online reviews, some not so hot.     

The new Verizon offering drops the 'sure' in Sureresponse.  At $149, no monthly service fee, the watch is released without an associated call center or a guaranteed responder network. This may be a first pass that precedes a future call center deal – last time it was VRI, which today markets its response services as VRIcares.  Perhaps its current market landscape has a set of PERS call center players already networked.  In any event, the user manual for Sureresponse is still around and promises to "connect you to assistance every hour of every day." That statement has no connection to today's Care Smart Watch for seniors.

For older adults in need, they need to call someone.  That someone should not be a relative. These non-professional ‘care circles’ are comprised of people who might be traveling, at dinner (with other relatives), or just plain unreachable. The average PERS wearer is still an 82-year-old woman, likely living alone, which is why PERS devices are useful in the first place. The 24x7 call center staff has people who are trained in triaging the severity of a problem, clarifying whether there is an emergency, or just having a conversation with a lonely individual who may not have spoken to anyone else that day or week.

Without a call center, a 'PERS' smart watch is just a watch.  A care watch for 'Seniors' – sounds good – but what’s a senior? In 2014, the year Verizon stopped selling Sure Response, this blog coined the term 'Real Senior' to mean those aged 75+, half women living alone, likely not working, having one or more chronic conditions, including the possibilities of hearing loss, vision issues.  The Real Senior (or family member) should expect a PERS watch to include a monitoring service – for example, the MobileHelp Smart,  the Medical Guardian Smart Watch, the FallCall Lite App (for Apple Watch), or UnaliWear’s voice-enabled Kanega watch.  And removing the watch feature, various wrist-worn wearables have fall detection and a call center – such as Alert1's device or the Lively Wearable 2 (used with smartphone). Verizon should get with the program and partner with a call center to deliver what it claims the Care Smart Watch to be.

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