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Apple Watch SOS and mPERS: Apples and oranges?

PERS execs compare features, assess competition
 - 
07/14/2016

YARMOUTH, Maine—On first inspection, the Apple Watch’s newly announced ‘SOS’ feature may seem similar to an mPERS device, but PERS experts who spoke to Security Systems News said comparing an Apple Watch with an mPERS device is like comparing apples and oranges.

Industry reacts to Apple, other possible PERS threats

 - 
Wednesday, June 29, 2016

In last week’s Monitoring Matters blog, I discussed the Apple Watch’s new SOS feature, and its similarities and differences between PERS functions. A few security professionals took me up on the opportunity to respond.

Daniel Oppenheim, VP of Affiliated Monitoring, said that the heightened consumer awareness of personal emergency features could grow the market, instead of cannibalize it, and that the demographics are different. “I think the Apple Watch, specifically, is for a more mobile, more active, more tech-savvy person who would not yet be an mPERS or PERS customer.” Affiliated hosted a PERS-focused conference in May.

He pointed to Amazon, and its Echo product, as another possible entrant. “In its current iteration, the Amazon Echo is not competition, but it is a harbinger of things to come, which is the realization that consumer products now have the ability to replicate or even improve on the current technology offerings of our industry.”

Oppenheim said that neither are large concerns, but something the industry should keep an eye on. “I don’t view either [Amazon Echo’s virtual assistant] Alexa or the Apple Watch as a near-term threat to the PERS industry—I think it’s something that we need to be focused on.”

Brock Winzeler, GM of mPERS manufacturer Freeus, didn’t see much threat in the announced Apple SOS feature. “I don’t think the impact would be significant,” he said. “The reason is: It is very, very difficult to replace the services that we offer. … Our devices call a monitoring center that is specifically built to handle PERS phone calls and PERS emergencies.” 

Oppenheim shared a similar sentiment on the value of a monitoring center. “That crucial decision making process, by which an operator can have a conversation and identify whether or not help is needed—and stay on the line with the customer as help is on its way, for those that do need it—I do not see that being replaced by technology.”

Speaking more generally on voice interaction, Oppenheim said that the technology could become more prevalent in the future. “It seems complex now, but in a short period of time, the concept of voice interaction with a virtual assistant will become commonplace.”

Winzeler also said there is a technology barrier for the traditional PERS demographics. “I think you’ll have a really tough time getting the senior demographic to adopt this type of technology. I think it’s just a little more challenging.”

Rich Darling, CEO of Instant Care, an OEM PERS manufacturer, also said that PERS and Apple Watch feature differ due to their target users' abilities. “It is our belief that the Apple watch is a fantastic device for the tech savvy user. However, as a … PERS OEM we have found that the most successful products targeting the PERS market are designed to require very little from the user, and perform as required when the need arises.”

Market Trends: The golden years of the PERS market

Not all PERS device users are in their golden years; however, a user could be a 68-year-old long distance runner
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04/20/2016

YARMOUTH, Maine—The users of personal emergency response systems (PERS) are getting younger. They are generally technologically savvy. The technology is getting more advanced. And so monitoring stations, manufacturers and dealers have reasons to believe the golden age of PERS market growth has begun.

News with Securus' buyers

 - 
Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Securus and the two companies that acquired its assets.  

Securus, a company focused on GPS tracking and PERS, was divided and sold in two parts in the first quarter of 2015. The PERS side of the business was sold to Freeus, a newly founded sister company to AvantGuard, formed for the purpose of acquiring this part of Securus. BrickHouse Security acquired the GPS business.

I find this interesting lately because BrickHouse yesterday started a Kickstarter to fund the development of mBand—a new mPERS solution designed for independent women. 

The mBand is taking an interesting approach to the mPERS device: making it into a ring, instead of a bracelet or pendant. At the time of writing this, 53 “backers” have supported the idea with $8,900.

Securus has also been on my mind because I was just speaking with Freeus’ GM Brock Winzeler about how the company has done in the year after it’s acquisition of Securus PERS business. The company has more than doubled the customer base since the purchase. You can read more about that here.

Freeus more than doubles customers in post-acquisition year

Company to show off first Freeus product at ISC West
 - 
03/30/2016

OGDEN, Utah—Since Freeus’ acquisition of Securus’ PERS assets in early March 2015, the company has doubled its customer base and now has more than 100 dealers.

SSN '20 under 40' winner launches new mPERS company

CallSafe device not just for elderly demographic, also useful for hikers, lone workers
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03/23/2016

PHOENIX—Nicole Swartwout, one of SSN’s “20 under 40” Class of 2015 award winners, has co-founded CallSafe, an mPERS provider based here.

Where does the name 'Freeus' really come from?

 - 
Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Last week, AvantGuard’s CEO, Josh Garner, told me a story. He had recently heard of a woman recovering from a fall, one who was set up with a traditional PERS unit. After hearing that it wouldn’t work outside of the home, she hadn’t left the house for 15 months, he said. After a dealer heard of this, he set her up with one of Securus’ mPERS devices.

“Eventually, she took a walk to the garden, then she walked down the street,” Garner told me. “She would test her device in all of these scenarios, and realized that if something were to happen to her… it still worked.”

“She celebrated by buying a puppy [which] she walks around her block every day.”

Garner wanted to incorporate this sense of Freedom into the naming AvantGuard’s new sister company, Freeus, which recently acquired the PERS business built by Securus.

“We really liked having something that linked us to the past. Securus has had a legacy of innovation, developing products.”

Thus, “freedom” and “Securus” combine to make “Freeus.”

“It sounds crazy, but that story—to us—just epitomizes what our business is about, and it’s delivering freedom to individuals,” Garner said.

That’s where the name comes from.

BrickHouse acquires Securus’ GPS business

Company expands customer base by 25 percent
 - 
03/10/2015

NEW YORK—BrickHouse Security, a supplier of alarm systems and GPS-tracking based here, on March 4 acquired Securus’ GPS business, shortly after the sale of Securus’ PERS business to Freeus. Terms of the deal were not released.

AvantGuard sister company acquires PERS manufacturer

Freeus acquires Securus
 - 
03/04/2015

OGDEN, Utah—Freeus, the new sister company to AvantGuard Monitoring Services, on Feb. 27 acquired the PERS side of Securus.