Wearable senior monitor can detect falls

Here's a new acronym in a field filled with them: WBAN, which stands for wireless body-area networks, in the emerging market segment of home health monitoring devices. That term is in the marketing material for Halo Monitoring, a Huntsville, AL, company that is marketing a wearable monitoring strap that can detect falls, one of the leading causes of hospitalization and accident-related deaths among senior citizens. Halo Monitoring is demonstrating its myHalo system at the Healthcare Unbound conference in Seattle this week.

The user wears a washable strap with electrodes embedded in the fabric to measure heart rate, skin temperature, calorie expenditure, sleep patterns and other factors critical to the health of frail, elderly people, and is able to detect whether the wearer has fallen or is simply lying down. It transmits readings via the ZigBee standard for wireless devices, to a home "gateway" that looks like a standard wireless Internet router. The gateway connects via an existing ethernet or a standard phone line to Halo's monitoring center, which can send immediate web, email and text alerts to concerned caregivers, or, in emergency cases, a call-center operator can contact the caregiver directly or dial 911. "If Mom doesn't answer the phone, you can log onto our website," President and CEO Chris Otto says.

Unlike other alert systems, monitoring is automatic, so the user doesn't have to press a panic button. The Halo system costs $65 to $99 a month, and is currently in use only in the Huntsville area, as well as in Chicago and New Jersey, where the company has marketing partners. Expect a national rollout next year, according to Otto.

For more on myHalo:
- check out Halo Monitoring's website