OZ eButton Could Save Your Life

Written by Alex Zaharov-Reutt      22/07/2014 | 17:30 | Category: WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY

Australian engineer Ian Kinny has created a Bluetooth LE-powered personal safety eButton which allows users to call for help via the click of a button.

OZ eButton Could Save Your Life
In the past older people have had access to "assistance" devices that can link to monitored emergency services.

These devices originally required a base station that connected to a landline phone, which then rings an alert centre that can, on some models, speak to you through the device, or at the very least send immediate assistance. 

One example I've seen is called "Life Alert", while Australian alternatives include VitalCall, and the Uniden SSE Emergency Pendant, which requires a compatible Uniden cordless phone.   

This is where Ian Kinny and his eButton comes into play. An Australian engineer based in Coffs Harbour, and Director of AppAce Pty Ltd, he came up with the idea around a year ago as a way to help his 87 year old neighbour Bill get assistance if ever there was an emergency, especially when he was and about.   

It wasn't actually Bill that was truly worried about it, but Bill's family, who now have the extra peace of mind that Bill can contact friends and family close by if ever needed. 

The eButton is a small and easy to operate device linked to its eButtonApp, and once clicked, which the company says can be done discretely from a range of up to 20 metres, the app sends a request for help via SMS to the user's selected "help" contacts. 

Any number of contacts can be designated as "help" contacts, giving those in emergency situations the best chance of alerting several of the most relevant people. 

In addition, the SMS gives the location of the user with updates, and sends more SMS messages if the user moves.

Unlike other systems, the eButton does not rely on voice communications, and there is no need to handle the phone. 

Given the device's simplicity, it's useful for people of all ages - not just those in dangerous or threatening situations, but even for more superfluous tasks, such as the "day-to-day escapism of long business meetings or awkward dates."


Click to enlarge
Mr Kinny explained that: "You might be threatened, or it might be impractical or embarrassing to take your phone out of your bag, unlock it, and scroll through several screens to either call, SMS or initiate an app to request assistance. 

"People needing the eButton could include an elderly person living independently, a person walking to their car or using public transport, backpackers, or a teenager at a party needing to be collected by their parents but not wanting to initiate a call for risk of being ridiculed."

"There was a void in the market for a portable and personalised safety alert device that could connect a user to their loved ones rather than a third party operator," he said.

"Essentially we wanted to create a 'peace of mind' button which would serve families as well as encourage good corporate social responsibility for businesses looking after their employees, including late night workers or those working in remote regions."

In a phone interview, Mr Kinny also explained how the system would be useful for parents with teenage children going to parties, or simply going out with friends. 

In the event of an emergency, pulling out a phone could be dangerous or impractical, yet the pendant, which can easily be worn around your neck on a chain, can be out of sight under clothing, and activated discretely. 

The eButton costs AUD $29.95, with the corresponding eButtonApp priced at $1.99. Current postage within Australia for the eButton is $7.20, with no ongoing charges.

It uses a standard and inexpensive CR2025 coin cell battery with year long battery life, and the eButtonApp will notify users when the battery is running low. 

The eButtonApp also has a "find" button enabling you to locate the eButton itself if lost, with the eButton set to beep if you go out of range from your phone, as well as automatically reconnect when back in range. 

eButtons' FAQ page explains that Android 4.3 smartphones and above with Bluetooth LE support are required, with the Nexus 4 and 5 on Android 4.4.2, the LG G2 with 4.4.2, the Samsung Galaxy S4 with 4.3 and the Sony Xperia Z with 4.3 have all been tested as fully compatible and working. 

The FAQ lists other Android phones which aren't yet compatible but are being worked on. 

No iOS or Windows Phone app is yet available, with Mr Kinny planning to start a petition asking Apple to allow Bluetooth LE devices to be able to send SMS messages, something that make an iOS eButton app possible. 

This is because the relevant Apple API does not currently allow essential features of the eButtonApp, which allows the pressing of the eButton to actually send the SMS message. 

Currently a message is generated in the SMS app, but it waits for the end user to press send, which isn't practical if you've fallen down and can't get up to get to your phone. 

Mr Kinny says enhancement requests have been submitted to Apple in July 2013 and March 2014, and that as soon as the functionality is available, iPhone apps will be completed and released, given that iPhones starting with 4s have had Bluetooth LE/Smart capability built-in. 

Plans for a Windows Phone app are also on the drawing board. 

More information can be found at eButton's site.