Digital Health

Enhancing Personal Safety Devices with Wearables

by Harry Wang | Jul. 29, 2016

Personal safety devices that track a user’s location and send alerts for emergency assistance stand as a unique opportunity for wearable technologies. Underlying health issues like stroke or conditions requiring multiple medications, the potential for injuries or falls during personal activities, or impaired cognitive capabilities such as Alzheimer’s can cause personal safety concerns.

The personal emergency response system (PERS) has a wearable component by default. PERS solutions include a wearable pendant, watch, or belt clip with a panic button that the wearer can press to call for help. PERS providers have incorporated new technologies, such as GPS, fall detection sensors, and mobile apps, which have expanded PERS services from responding to emergency calls to proactively managing personal safety and emergency situations. As a result, the market has expanded from fragile seniors who live alone to schoolchildren, boomers with fragile health conditions, night-shift employees, lone workers, and outdoorsy hikers.

Parks Associates believes that the personal safety market opportunity is much larger than the traditional PERS market. The latter serves about two million users in the U.S. today, and PERS users are concentrated in the much older and fragile demographics that are also economically constrained due to a fixed income. Personal safety monitoring, on the other hand, serves broader demographics and a much larger addressable market.

  • In a 2013 study, the National Association of State Boards of Education found that more than 15 million students—including approximately 3.7 million middle schoolers—are alone and unsupervised between 3 and 6 p.m., the peak hours for juvenile crime.
  • Women make up about 47% of the U.S. workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2013 that 12.7% of all violent crimes against women were committed while the victim was working or on duty.
  • According to Omnilink, about 23 million U.S. employees work alone in a high-risk environment.


Personal safety monitoring can be enhanced through smartphone-connected wearables or wearables with embedded cellular connectivity, creating a promising market. Through these devices, an SOS alert can be sent in a timely and discreet manner to deter crimes or minimize personal injuries.

This wearables-inspired opportunity faces competition from mobile app/service-based business models, such as Life360, a mobile app that allows family members to track other members’ whereabouts and alert each other when loved ones leave or arrive at a specified location. Despite this competitive threat, wearables as an always-on, easily-retrievable, and discreetly-usable option have practical value and advantages over solutions tethered to a smartphone that people may not carry with them all the time or are unable to use in an emergency situation. 

This article originally appeared on IoT Agenda.

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Harry Wang

Harry Wang

Senior Director of Research

Harry Wang oversees Parks Associates’ mobility and apps research, which covers mobile/wearable devices and services, apps and APIs, and mobile commerce/marketing, payment, and connected car industries. He is also the founder and lead analyst of Parks Associates’ digital health research program since its inception in 2006. He and his team cover emerging health technologies, applications, and services in areas such as chronic/preventive care, independent living, wellness and fitness, and virtual/convenience care.

Harry has published more than 40 industry reports and white papers and presented his mobility and digital health research at numerous industry events including CES, Mobile World Congress, CTIA, Open Mobile Summit, World Health Congress, the American Telemedicine Association Annual Trade Show, and Parks Associates’ CONNECTIONS™ and Connected Health Summit conferences.

Harry earned his MS degree in marketing research from the University of Texas at Arlington. He also holds an MBA degree in finance from Texas Christian University and a BA degree in international business from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, P.R. China.

Industry Expertise: Digital Health Products and Services, Portable and Mobile Access Platforms and Applications, Digital Imaging Products and Services

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