Today, some smartwatches contain a fall detection feature that alerts your trusted contacts and emergency services that you have fallen and need help.
How it works
Fall detection works by measuring a range of parameters on your smartwatch, such as “a sudden deceleration or impact”. For fall detection to work, you start by registering one or more emergency contacts among people in your contact list on your phone. The smartwatch with fall detection will notify the people you have listed as emergency contacts of your fall and your location as soon as the smartwatch detects a fall.
On the Apple watches with fall detection, you have 60 seconds to prevent the watch from calling the emergency service if you live in the US. After the emergency call, the smartwatch will alert your emergency contacts by a text on their mobile phones on where to find you. The emerbency call is not yet available outside the US, however, but the text alert to your contacts works outside the US. If you do not need an ambulance, you can simply cancel the call by pressing a button on your Apple Watch.
Vitalband smartwatch also has a panic button to call for help. This feature is primarily a means to replace the panic button elderly otherwise have around their necks.
For young and old
The alert was initially designed for the elderly, but it is also helpful for people who exercise in places or at times where there are no one around to help if you fall. The fall alert can, for example, be helpful for people running in a forest or a quiet or thinly populated neighbourhood at night or for a biker or hiker.
Still a limited option
So far, only a few smartwatches offer the fall detection feature; among them are Apple Watches 4-6 and SE, Vitalband smartwatch (https://www.coolwearable.com/vitalband-smartwatch/), PLoS ONE 10 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 3.
Garmin also offers a range of smartwatches with fall detection, but here they call it “incident detection” (https://weartotrack.com/smartwatches-fall-detection/).
Huawei, Xiaomi and Fitbit do not yet seem to offer a fall detection feature despite wishes from some of its users (https://community.fitbit.com/t5/Feature-Suggestions/Fallen-Detection-amp-Notification-App/idi-p/3566365) and even though the newer versions all have the necessary sensors to detect a fall.
Most smartwatches that offer fall or incident detection need to be paired with a smartphone that you need to have with you when the incident happens. Only Apple smartwatches with cellular can make emergency calls to chosen contacts and emergency service without having a paired smartphone nearby.
However, the risk of false fall alarms is significantly smaller when the smartwatch is paired with a smartphone, so in general it seems like a good idea to couple your smartwatch with a smartphone – also for protection in case you call fall.
The market for a fall detection feature in smartwatches seems to be growing, as it can appeal to both physically active users and replace the panic button for the elderly.
Not surprisingly, the smartwatches that do offer fall detection already keep evolving. Thus Vitalband is marketing a new smartwatch version, Vitalband LTE (https://www.vitaltech.com/vitalband-lte), which they claim will be available to customers soon.