V.ALRT Personal Emergency Response Device review
The V.ALRT Personal Emergency Response Device is a Bluetooth 4.0/Bluetooth Low Energy/Bluetooth Smart button that you carry with you and in the event you press a button a text message containing a short text message and your location is sent to up to three contacts.
The V.ALRT then attempts to dial the contacts on speakerphone to get someone on the line, so in a perfect scenario you’ve got three people with your location accurate to within 15 meters that know you need assistance and at least one on the phone to talk to.
Based on the box art, this is designed for older men sleeping at the foot of stairs, six year olds riding bikes with their cell phones, women in leather coats being chased by someone from The Purge in a parking lot, and young women having to deal with old men in a wheelchair. Your needs will probably be different, and your six year old’s cell phone may not support Bluetooth Smart, so beware.
It’s really designed for anyone with a fairly modern smartphone they keep charged and within whatever the button’s range is. The range is listed as less than 75 feet in a house, or less than 300 feet outdoors. However, your phone’s ability to pick up a signal from a low energy button and the environment will factor in to how much distance you can put between the button and your phone.
The V.ALRT button can be worn as a necklace, keychain, wristwatch, and some versions evidently have a belt clip (my VSN400 only had the first two). It works in conjunction with a smartphone capable of Bluetooth 4/Bluetooth Low Energy/Bluetooth Smart/whatever they’re calling the specification that relatively few devices at the moment support.
So in order to utilize this, you’ll need a newer style Android or iPhone that handles that protocol. It’s been available for the past few years, but some devices that support Bluetooth 4 don’t support the low energy/Bluetooth Smart, so check and make sure yours does before considering investing in this.
The V.ALRT runs on a watch battery, the documentation suggests changing it out at a watch store. I couldn’t get the thing to budge to look at the battery, so I’m going to suggest following their instructions on that. It did not want to open.
The V.ALRT does some interesting things in conjunction with the software – one of these is the software knows when the button isn’t around and can alert you. I’ve read tale of some people’s phones not realizing a button was 10 feet away. I didn’t have an issue, but your phone may vary and that’s an option you can turn off in the software for sanity if your phone’s not happy with button sonar.
On the flip side of the equation, your contacts will receive a text message from a number that is not yours. In the case of my tests, the text message origination number appeared from a number in the 419 area code. It will include your name, your phone number, a very short text message from you (maybe 60 characters). They’ll receive a follow-up text with your estimated location (in my test in the bunker it was off by about 140 feet, but that’s my GPS and surroundings).
Unfortunately with a bad cell signal or dead battery the button can do little for you, and there’s no way from the button to enable or disable the panic sound, so if you’re in a situation where you might silently want to notify someone you’re in trouble you would need to whip out your cell phone, open the app, disable the emergency alert notification, then press the button.
So you’ll need to consider whether you think an obnoxious alert notification is a good or bad thing before you need to use it.
If getting as a gift, you’ll also probably want to consider whether you expect your recipient to keep their phone charged. If you’ve got a friend or a loved one who always gets into trouble with a dead phone, this isn’t going to help them one bit and might hurt depending on how your device handles Bluetooth (generally if you’re 4.0+/Bluetooth Smart you’re not going to notice it).
In the end I think it’s a good idea, the software needs a little tweaking, the button holders need to be available in different colors, it’s not a replacement for a medic alert bracelet, but what you can do with it is very quickly get a phone call on speakerphone initiated with your location given to your contacts.
If you’re a parent it’s potentially a great device for getting your kids to check in occasionally. There are a lot of uses for this button beyond emergencies, which hopefully the software will expand on shortly.
The V.ALRT VSN400 Personal Emergency Response Device is available from Amazon for $59.99.