IoT Brings Connectivity to Wounded Warriors

The MobileHelp Smart wristband, with cellular connectivity from KORE Wireless, enables individuals who are prone to requiring health-care or mental-health assistance on an emergency basis to easily summon help from an activity-tracker watch.
Published: January 2, 2019

Two technology companies have teamed up to create a smart-watch-based emergency-response system, which was released earlier this year, for individuals who may be younger and more mobile than traditional users of mobile help technologies. The solution is being employed as part of the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP).

The WWP is a charity and veterans service non-profit organization that offers services to aid veterans who, since 2001, have come back from war with injuries. It operates multiple programs aimed at improving the lives of wounded war veterans in the United States. The Warrior Care Network is one such program, with a network of treatment centers for individuals who need either physical or psychological assistance on an emergency basis. Four medical centers across the United States are prat of the program to deliver real-time care by responding to requests for emergency help.

Samsung’s Gear S3 smart watch, running the Samsung Health Suite app

MobileHelp and KORE Wireless have offered the MobileHelp Smart solution as part of that program, to make it easier for veterans to place emergency help requests with the type of wearable device that is ubiquitous among Americans: a smart watch. The solution comes with a Samsung Gear S3 smart watch running the Samsung Health Suite app, says Jason Rutherford, KORE Wireless’s executive VP and chief revenue officer, while KORE provides voice and cellular connectivity, allowing the MobileHelp cloud-based system to manage data via central monitoring.

According to a 2017 Wounded Warrior Project survey, 77 percent of injured veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, while 88 percent receive benefits for multiple injuries from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). That means many need greater physical and mental health-care services than others in the public, often on an emergency basis.

MobileHelp has sold technology products based on safety for vulnerable individuals, such as the elderly, since 2009, says Rob Flippo, the company’s CEO. Its first products used cellular and GPS functionality on a device worn by individuals to provide them with mobility and safety. “KORE has been a partner since the beginning in making that happen,” Flippo states. If an individual wearing the MobileHelp product were to have an emergency situation, such as a fall, he or she could press a button, and a transmission of GPS data would be sent to the MobileHelp call center.

Since that time, the company has continued to develop new products, adding Bluetooth capability for collecting medical data from sensors or other medical devices and forwarding that information along with a user’s unique ID number. The company met with Samsung to develop a solution using the form factor for wearable technology with long-term evolution (LTE) cellular connectivity. Flippo notes that veterans are often reluctant to wear the same kind of device an elderly patient might wear, since they are active and require something more discreet.

The MobileHelp Smart watch enables wounded warriors and other users to access a crisis-management hotline. The wristband features an emergency button that users can simply press to be routed to an operator. Once the company developed the technology into a smart watch and gained connectivity through KORE Wireless, Flippo says, it also donated some of the new products to the Wounded Warrior Project. “Our long-term goal,” he explains, “is to provide awareness for those in need, beyond the elder demographic.”

Rob Flippo

The watches have been worn by some veterans for several months—for instance, by participants in the Race Across America event that started on Sept. 8 of this year. That bicycle event commenced at Ground Zero (now the site of the Freedom Tower) in Manhattan, and continued across the United States to San Diego, Calif. Approximately 35 riders participated, with two to three warriors on the road at a time.

MobileHelp’s management rode bicycles along with the participants for the first 10 miles. “We were able to participate in that,” Flippo says, “and it was really great talking to some of those warriors.” Some have PTSD, while some use recumbent bikes or have physical injuries they are working around. “It was great to see how well the technology was received by them,” he adds.

Jason Rutherford

Flippo says the solution was well received by riders, who used the watches to monitor their progress, along with basic health information, such as calories burned. The Samsung Health Suite tracks a person’s heart rate, steps and calories, as well as what he or she eats and drinks during the course of a day, and heat levels. During the event, the emergency help request was available to participants with the push of a button.

“KORE has a tradition of helping with corporate responsibility,” Rutherford says, “and health care is one of the areas that we like to help out in. So when they came to us, we jumped at the opportunity to be part of the solution being delivered to those guys.” The watch can operate across the United States, he notes.

MobileHelp already has 9.5 million devices in use by vulnerable individuals, including those in industrial or home-care environments. “This is just added to the equation for getting at a new, younger demographic,” Flippo states. Says Rutherford, “I think these changing form factors will make it more acceptable to use this kind of solution.”