Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons, Chris Sampson.

Circling the earth at an altitude of 20,000 kms, 24 GPS satellites complete two full orbits every day, transmitting the signals that provide location intelligence to billions of devices and applications. Their data has revolutionized the way we move, shop and complete our daily routines. Most critically of all, it is helping save lives.

When medical alert systems emerged in the mid-1970s, they began to provide an answer to a pressing concern of care and independence for the aging. How do you ensure a rapid response if a fall or medical emergency occurs when no one else is around? These early devices only worked in and around the home, and it wasn’t until the advent of cellular technology and GPS location services that they became untethered.

Modern alert systems are wearable, function in and outside the home, can transmit a location even when the affected individual is unable to communicate it themselves, and often come with technology that identifies falls and coordinates a response on the user’s behalf.

Read on for some of the devices available in Canada, all of which enable greater freedom for users and peace of mind for caregivers and loved ones. Most services require a monthly subscription fee unless noted otherwise.

AlarmCare Go

Alarm Force have become a household name in home security, so it’s not a giant leap for them to extend their expertise to medical alert systems. Their pendant provides two-way communication with a call centre, fall detection and location detection. They also offer a wired version for use within the home.

Caretrak

Marketed as ‘proudly Canadian’, Caretrak’s SOS button allows users to either speak directly to their specified care contact or to a 24/7 emergency response centre. The device uses GPS to pinpoint location, and sends text and email alerts to contacts once activated. Fall detection is also available.

Direct Alert

This device comes with its own built-in phone line, enabling two-way communication almost anywhere in Canada. Like other products, it uses GPS technology and includes fall detection, but excels in the field of real-time tracking – its CareCloud platform can be accessed by verified contacts to show current location regardless of whether the alarm is activated, providing additional peace of mind.

Live Life Mobile Alarm

One of the smaller and more stylish options on the market, with the ability to be worn as a pendant or on the wrist, once activated, this alarm will call five emergency contacts one by one. At the same time, it sends up to five help messages via text with a link to Google Maps that shows the user’s location within two metres of accuracy. Anyone who has the phone number of the pendant can call it directly and speak to the user via speakerphone. Fall detection included. One-time equipment cost with no monthly fees.

One Call Alert

One Call prides itself on its customer service, with 20 years in the field and two call centres in North America, providing 24/7 personal services. A press of a button connects you to trained emergency operators, who can then contact local emergency services, or a personal contact on your behalf. Fall detection is available for an additional cost.

Philips GoSafe

The GoSafe uses GPS tracking and its help button provides quick access to two-way communication with a 24/7 Canadian call centre, and their fall detection feature provides 30 seconds to cancel the alert – a great way to cut down on false alarms. The GoSafe also includes an in-home communicator, in addition to the wireless pendant, providing a home backup in the event of battery failure.