SARASOTA, Fla., Sept. 17, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Companion Call for Help, a purpose-built, voice-activated medical alert system developed by Sarasota-based Ways Security, is one of eight national finalists in AARP's Caregiver Accelerator Competition on September 17 at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg.
Drawing on the multilingual capabilities of Amazon's Alexa technology, Companion Call for Help offers 24/7 emergency support by two-way voice, without the need for a wearable panic button or pendant, says Mark Gray, CEO of Ways Security. "Just say, 'Alexa, call for help' and our patented alert system will connect you instantly to our highly trained, urgent response agents," Gray said. "They will assess your situation and if you need emergency help, they will dispatch the help you need with full information about your address and condition, so first-responders will be well-prepared to save your life."
Gray said the AARP competition provides a "live" national stage to showcase the many benefits of Companion Call for Help for older adults, veterans, their families and caregivers. "Along with being able to call for help in an emergency, our Companion technology helps seniors stay engaged with their community, friends and family, reducing social isolation and improving their overall quality of life," he said.
Sponsored by AARP Innovation Labs, hosted by AARP Florida and organized by ReunionCare, Inc., the upcoming national competition focuses on new technologies that can contribute to solving the caregiver crisis. It will be live-streamed on Monday, September 17, at facebook.com/AARPFL.
Audience members at the September 17, 2018 pitch event, including both onsite at the Poynter Institute and watching on the AARP Florida's Facebook page, will participate in judging the seven pitches. The top two vote tallies will move onto compete in a national final pitch event in Washington DC on October 25 along with the top two companies from Boston, Oakland and Raleigh. These companies will be eligible for joining AARP Innovation Lab called "The Hatchery" in Washington DC to incubate and accelerate their growth with access to funding from a JP Morgan investment fund.
"With the U.S. population of older adults growing rapidly, we will need 40 million caregivers by 2025, so it's essential to use innovative technology like Companion Call for Help to support those human resources," Gray said.
While medical alert pendants and wearable call buttons have long been available, more than 80 percent of seniors don't use them, according to Gray. "Wearables are often forgotten or left on the nightstand," he added. "They can't save you if you don't have them on."
In contrast, Companion Call for Help allows seniors to speak up and request assistance from anywhere in their home, or from a car using a smartphone and mobile application. Ways Security provides Companion subscribers with Amazon Echo devices preloaded with Alexa, and installs and maintains them as part of the service. A setup typically takes just a few minutes to configure a cell phone and a Wi-Fi Internet connection with easy-to-understand instructions, or onsite installation and training is available nationwide.
To build a voice-activated solution based on Alexas' current and future capabilities, Ways Security drew on more than 50 years of providing security services to the Southwest Florida market, as well as a partnership with Andrew Westlund, a former vice president at Amazon.
"Alexa is one of the leading platforms in the fast-growing voice technology sector, which analysts predict will reach 55 percent of U.S. households by 2020 – a faster uptake than mobile phones, laptops or tablets," said Gray." One reason is that we can speak many times faster than we can type. Plus, Alexa does fun stuff with thousands of free apps. It's an ideal technology for seniors and their caregivers."
ABOUT COMPANION CALL FOR HELP Headquartered in Sarasota, FL, Companion - Call for Help ("Companion") offers a voice-initiated solution that provides an easy way for individuals hindered by limited vision, mobility, aging or other challenges to communicate with family and professional caregivers, or "Call for Help" in an emergency. Companion is integrated with the Alexa Voice Service and Alexa-enabled devices like Amazon Echo. It provides greater engagement, connection, memory care and access to highly trained urgent response agents (24/7) providing cost-effective, peace-of-mind. Companion is a purpose built, voice-driven solution empowering older adults or veterans to live safe and independent lives.