Lively, Vodafone Join Forces on Safety System for Elders

Using Bluetooth-based motion sensors, a wristwatch and a cellular network connection, Lively hopes to help older adults live independently, while assuring family members of their safety.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Dec 10, 2014

One thing was paramount to product designers at two-year-old San Francisco startup Lively: The safety-alert system they were making for independent, older adults had to be impeccably ease to use. They knew that if the solution—which is based on a series of Bluetooth sensors, a wristwatch and a central hub within the home—was even slightly difficult or unclear to get up and running, they'd lose customers. They also knew that a goodly slice of the octogenarian-and-older demographic they would be targeting does not have, and never plans on having, an Internet connection. Enter: global telecommunications firm Vodafone.

"The thought process around using a SIM [subscriber identity module], as opposed to Wi-Fi, to connect Lively, is that users just get a device, go home, plug it in and it's connected," says Andrew Morawski, who leads Vodafone's machine-to-machine business arm. "The Vodafone SIM inside the hub is pre-provisioned, so it's automatically connected to the Lively network as soon as the hub is plugged in."

The wristwatch is available in two color options.
The Lively system design also benefited from a focus group of target users, says Iggy Fanlo, Lively's CEO. "We showed them prototypes of other makers' safety-alert pendants and our wristwatch," he says, "and 96 percent of them wanted our watch. Why? For reasons of vanity." Fanlo believes that the creator of Life Alert, which sells a pendant that can be used to call for medical help—a product made famous through a series of television commercials punctuated by the line, "I've fallen and I can't get up!"—is a victim of its own marketing. "No one we interviewed wanted to be the person at bottom of the stairs who has fallen and can't get up," he adds.

The Lively system's physical components include the central hub, sensors and the wristwatch. The hub is linked to Lively's Web-based back-end software via the Vodafone cellular network. The Lively watch and sensors—which are intended not only to detect if users have fallen, but also if they are carrying out important activities, such as taking their medications—communicate to the hub via a Bluetooth connection, and contain accelerometers to detect movement. Lively recommends attaching the sensors to a user's refrigerator and pillbox, bathroom and shower doors, and the main entrance and exit points of the home.

Over time, the Lively software creates a typical profile of how often a user opens and closes his or her pill dispenser, refrigerator or other doors within the home. A Web interface helps family members ensure that an elder user's activities are in line with her or his normal routine, based on the collected sensor data. The wristwatch will alert the user, via an icon on the watch face and an optional vibration alert, if he or she has not opened the pillbox on schedule. The Web interface also alerts family members and sends an SMS text message and e-mail whenever something appears to have gone awry with the user's daily routine—such as the pillbox remaining inactive despite reminders being sent via telephone, or if the user does not appear to be eating or leaving the house on a normal schedule, based on the sensor history.

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