According to a report published last week by The Freedonia Group, sales of personal emergency response systems (PERS) and related alarms is projected to expand by 7.3 percent annually over the next five years, reaching $220 million in 2021. This product category has historically been largely comprised of and is still primarily driven by solutions designed for the elderly in what is today referred to as the “age in place” market. However, advancements in technology and mobile communications, in particular, have also opened the door to an entirely new generation of personal safety devices and applications, known as mobile PERS or mPERS, for short, that are geared more towards a younger demographic.
While many of these solutions leverage smartphone apps to notify first responders and loved ones in the event of emergency, there are also some wearable security devices hitting the market that offer a number of distinct advantages over strictly app-based products. Enter the Occly Blinc, a wearable safety device that can be used by consumers at home or on the go.
The Occly Blinc features four “always-on” cameras, as well as a microphone, sirens, LED lighting, wireless capabilities and a number of automatic alarm sensors. The device, after someone puts it on and activates it, continually records images using the onboard cameras for the duration of the battery life, which is about nine-and-a-half hours. When an alarm is activated, which can be done manually by the user hitting a panic button or automatically through one the device’s impact sensors being triggered, a signal is sent to the Occly Emergency Response Center where an operator can dispatch law enforcement if necessary. Also, because the device is always recording, dispatchers are able to go back and review view both audio and video 15 seconds prior to an alarm’s activation providing an accurate assessment of what the emergency is and sending the appropriate first responders to the scene.
"Personal safety is not something that has been appropriately addressed with modern technology in our opinion so that was really the impetus behind Occly," says Marc Harris, the company’s CEO. "We wanted to create a personal safety solution that was unique and better than alternatives – whether that is a firearm or mace – which require some kind of engagement. The concept behind Occly is that, ultimately, we look to be a deterrent, similar to a property security sign that you would put in your yard. As soon as we start getting people arrested for committing crimes, people are going to know what this device is."
Harris believes personal safety solutions that rely solely on a smartphone app are not adequate and that people really need to have a physical device prominently displayed on their person to be able to prevent an assault, robbery or any other type of violent crime.
"To use a cellphone application you have to pull the phone out, scroll to it, hit the button, and (the assailant) is mostly likely looking to steal your cellphone, so that’s a bad alternative," he explains. "Or you have push-button fobs or traditional PERS buttons that are in a purse or pocket and not really acting as a deterrent. We’re looking to stop the (crime) before it happens."
Users can also download a free companion app with the Blinc hardware that will provide them with access to the Occly Safety Network, which sends notifications to users about crime hotspots within a city or surrounding community as they move through them.
"We will show you where crimes have been committed in the last 30 days as you go and we’re actually going to be developing some route mapping software that goes around all of this information we have," Harris says. "We look at ourselves as being a solution that can be used before the event, during the event, and if we’re unsuccessful in preventing it, we can be used after the event, because we are the only ones that will get pictures, sound and evidence for prosecution and loss mitigation."
While the device may be particularly attractive to commuters, students and outdoor enthusiasts (joggers, hikers, bikers, etc.), the company also believes Blinc will appeal to a number of users in the commercial sector, particularly realtors, delivery drivers, security guards, and other lone workers.
Occly initially rolled out its Blinc device directly to consumers, but the company is currently establishing a channel sales program to expand its reach through security dealers.
"We are currently in a direct to consumer introductory campaign, which will help us finalize our dealer program and our consumer pricing. The program will be rolling out in August and September," Harris says.
Under the company’s introductory consumer pricing, those who wish to purchase the device itself without monitoring can do so for $199. Occly also offers the device for $149 with a $19.95 a month monitoring fee. Those who commit to a 12-month monitoring contract for $239 can receive the hardware for free.
"PERS pendants have been around for a while - they’ve even been using cellular (communications) for a while - so any of these things that are getting re-dressed up as jewelry or some other kind of dotcom solution is really just old technology, whether it uses cellular or Bluetooth, and none of it is really doing what we’re trying to do, which is prevent the crime," Harris says.