Smart Watches with Automatic Fall Detection

Host: Welcome to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL). Our guest today is Erin Brunelle, director of client services at the Center for Assistive Technology at the University at Buffalo. I'm your host, Ernie Churchwell. Welcome back to the program, Erin. 

Guest: Thanks for having me. 

Host: And as always, although some of our listeners may have this practically memorized by now, but as always, when you come to us, it's because of the auspices of TRAID. If you could sum up how they help people with disabilities live better. 

Guest: So TRAID stands for Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities, so it's spelled TRAID and it's a state funded program that enables us to provide free demonstration and short-term loan of assistive technology devices. 

Host: Terrific. Well, that encapsulated it nicely. In a departure from our usual format, instead of instead of describing a particular device in detail, you're going to talk about an entire range of devices made by different manufacturers that have a common purpose, which is the safety of the individual with the disability. Could you please tell us what you can inform our people about fall detection?  

Guest: Sure. So, one thing I wanted to kind of bring to the public's attention because it's a feature that's now built into most smartwatches. This is automatic fall detection. So, this actually came to my attention when I was looking at some type of fall detection system to support my grandmother. She's 80 and she lives independently, and we just wanted to make sure that if she did have a fall and unfortunately were to become unconscious or were to need assistance, she can seek that assistance as needed. So, this is now something that's available in the Apple Watch. It's in the Samsung Smart watches and also the Google Pixel Smart Watch. 

And there's actually a feature where if someone were to fall, and I believe they have to be essentially immobile, so still for about 30 seconds to a minute, then it will actually automatically alert people in order to help them. 

Host: Oh, that is handy. It's not like some of these medallions and whatnot that you can get where you have to press the button when you need someone, an individual to help the watch does it for you. 

Guest: And that's exactly where I see the benefit, Ernie, is the life alerts are very effective, but someone might need to be conscious in order to press the button. So, if someone has a fall that renders them unconscious or if they are perhaps having a seizure or something more serious going on where they're not able to interact with the device, this would automatically do it for them. 

The watches, one of the features is actually calling the emergency services automatically. All of the watches do have that that I listed, so Apple, the Samsung watches and also the Google Pixel watches and then some like the Samsung Watch actually also reach out to your emergency contacts and can even share your location. If you did have that type of fall that that called the emergency services as well. 

Host: Since you're talking about a number of different devices, you probably don't have exact figures at your fingertips, but could you give us an idea of the range whether like $5,000, 10 thousand dollars, $58? 

Guest: So, Apple watches, Samsung watches and Google Pixel watches I would say all run between $200 and $400.00 depending on the model that someone's purchasing. One thing I would recommend when people are looking in if they are looking into this type of option, is a few things. One is making sure that if it doesn't work for someone you can return it. 

If someone really needs a more reliable system than something like this, then perhaps look into those more that are marketed in a medical sense and then also you may end up needing something like data instead of just wireless. So, because this would actually be the watch would be making phone calls itself. If someone didn't have wireless capability in their home, they may need to actually add it to their phone plan. 

Host: We're just about out of time. How can people call you for more info? 

Guest: So, if people are interested, they can give us a call at 716-836-1168 and they can also send us an email at, whether it's for information or to schedule a free 30-minute appointment. 

Host: Thanks so much for being with us Erin. 

Guest: Thank you. 

Host: You've been listening to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of WNYIL. Our guest today was Erin Brunelle, director of client services at the Center for Assistive Technology at the University at Buffalo. And I've been your host, Ernie Churchwell.