Written by Kate McDonald on 27 May 2014.

The company behind the three-in-one personal alarm device SOS Mobile Watch are getting ready to launch a waterproof version, having also added new location-finding functionality and new and unexpected markets for the technology.

Sydney-based mCareWatch launched its first generation SOS Mobile Watch last year, targeting older people living at home with a device that acts as a watch, a mobile phone with GPS tracking and a personal alarm. The idea was to have an alternative to traditional pendant alarms that are worn around the neck, but also to allow older people the freedom to go about their daily activities without forcing them to stay close to a base station.

Since then, the company has also launched a software platform called ConnectiveCare for residential aged care facilities that allows care staff to monitor residents and detect whether they are leaving designated areas through its Geo-Fence capability. Devices are also being used by hospitals when discharging elderly patients into transitional care and for disabled people and those recovering from stroke.

mCareWatch co-founder Peter Apostolopoulos said the company had conducted focus group research over the last year, and the primary feedback was that a waterproof version was needed.

The company has since worked on the technology and will release an IP67-classified water-resistant device called the SMW14 at the end of June. The team is also working on an advanced smart mobile watch that will include a gyroscope to detect falls as well as Bluetooth functionality to allow the wearer and their carers to pair it to blood pressure monitors or other wireless devices for chronic disease management.

However, besides a water-resistant model, Mr Apostolopoulos said the biggest improvement to the first-generation device is to location finding.

?We’ve done that by including Wi-Fi technology,? he said. ?Previously, if you were inside a building the GPS doesn’t work so there was always difficulty getting a response back and locating the individual. Now with Wi-Fi that is built in, it will use GPS, Wi-Fi and the mobile towers and triangulate to get a better position. That’s a big improvement.?

Mr Apostolopoulos, who came up with the concept with his brother Paul after their father had an accident, said they had initially targeted the consumer market with a view to allowing adult children to have peace of mind about elderly parents living alone.

The SOS Mobile Watch has an emergency button in case of falls, can be opened up for two-way communication at the touch of a button and also works as a good old-fashioned watch. Carers can also configure medication and meal reminders through mobile apps and a web portal, and the device can be linked to the family or carer’s smartphone through iPhone and Android mobile apps.

Besides the waterproofing ? which will allow the individual to wear it in the bath and the shower and to go swimming to a depth of a metre ? mCareWatch has also added a new cradle charger for ease of use.

?Individual elderly people need to charge the watch but they found it difficult to use a USB so the cradle charger that we’ve got now is a lot simpler and easier for them,? Mr Apostolopoulos said.

?We’ve also made improvements with reminders for medications and appointments, and the carer’s web dashboard will also have the capability to graph activity as well. We have a pedometer in the watch that means you can look at the daily activity of the individual wearer.?

The technology has been trialled by a number of residential aged care providers including Anglican Retirement Villages (ARV), RSL Lifecare, Domain Principal Group (Canterbury Nursing Home) and Catholic Healthcare (Stella Maris). Improvements to the software platform that the company is calling ConnectiveCare 2.0 include mobile apps for iPhone and Android that allows care providers to monitor a number of devices, as well as a web dashboard that enables the watches to be configured remotely.

?The app will allow an individual or service providers or care providers to monitor a number of watches,? Mr Apostolopoulos said. ?It is also built-in with all of the Geo-Fence capabilities and it can alert individual carers as well as the service provider that a resident has moved out of the particular safe zone.

?We’ve also added a lot more functionality and more sophisticated functionality about alerting the residents, the care providers and the service providers of the status of the watch as well. So if someone turns the watch off you’ll be alerted and if there is low battery on the watch you’ll be alerted.?

It is also being used by RSL Lifecare for its nurses on nightshift, he said. ?We’ve built in an automated welfare system that rings them every two hours to make sure everything is okay. If there is an issue, they can actually track them using the watch as well. That has been quite interesting that there are applications other areas.?

Some hospitals in Victoria are using the technology when discharging elderly residents who have a history of wandering. Mr Apostolopoulos said clinicians had asked for technology to provide support to older patients being discharged into their homes or sub-acute care, and there is also a new market for people recovering from stroke.

?Stroke patients that have been in long-term rehab and are going back into the community have said they want a device, and their preference is for a watch that is a bit more discreet. A lot of people don’t like the stigma of wearing a pendant around their neck so they get what they need with the watch.?

The company is also offering the watch in white and dark red as well as black, and is also planning a revamp of its website as it gears up for the launch of the waterproof version.

?We’ll be doing a major blast over the coming months for the SMW14 and we are also looking at working with manufacturers of blood pressure monitors and glucometers and the like for the advanced smart mobile watch so we can bundle it up for chronic disease management.?