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Assiniboine student develops new emergency medical alert system

Assiniboine student develops new emergency medical alert system

Written On: 27 May, 2019
Category: Academic Technology Victoria Avenue East Campus
Related programs:  Communications Engineering Technology

Scott Jersak, a recent graduate in Communications Engineering Technology at Assiniboine Community College, has developed an emergency medical alert system for people living in seniors’ homes.

An elderly woman in an assisted living centre needs immediate medical help. With the touch of a button on her Alert Fob, her emergency call pops up on a staff member’s computer screen.

If the situation isn’t an emergency, the woman can push a different button on the same device and get help with something or have a question answered. 

The Alert Fobs were developed by Scott Jersak as a second-year capstone project in Communications Engineering Technology at Assiniboine Community College.

“When I worked in customer service for cellphone companies, I helped the elderly a lot, because lots of people had questions about their cellphones. I really enjoyed working with them and I wanted to find a way to make life easier for them. If they run into a problem in one of those assisted living centres, then they could click a button on the Alert Fob to seek help, preferably immediately,” Jersak said.

His device has several advantages over products currently on the market, he said. 

One medical alert company will send an ambulance in response to a call from a customer. But an ambulance might not always be needed, Jersak said.

“Sometimes, you’ll just be kneeling down in the garden and it will go off and you’ll get an ambulance to your house. It’s a rare case, but it does happen,” he said.

Those services require a subscription costing $30 to $60 a month. Seniors already pay $1,000 to $1,700 a month to live in their residences, he said. Although there would be an initial installation cost for the hardware and signaling devices, there would be no ongoing monthly operating costs for the facility or the user.

“I was looking for an option to have something in the building. My goal is to sell it to the assisted living centre itself. Then they can choose to include it in the cost of the person’s rent each month or possibly just have it as an extra feature for them. If there’s some way for it to be inexpensive, but still have a way for them to have an emergency alert system, that would be awesome,” he said.

Jersak also touts the communications protocol he is using as better suited to seniors’ homes than what’s available now. 

The Alert Fobs typically don’t operate at cellular or Wi-Fi frequencies. They use a different part of the Radio Frequency spectrum to communicate, the same as garage door openers and car key fobs, which can be beneficial when it comes to indoor signal propagation.

“In a lot of these care homes and assisted living centres, they don’t have 100 per cent Wi-Fi coverage, so some of these devices that rely on Wi-Fi aren’t as effective there. In some buildings, as well, the cellular reception is very poor. So my hope is that by using a Radio Frequency device like this inside the building, we can extend the range and give it better reception,” Jersak said. 

If the system were implemented in a seniors’ home, the residents would each get a hand-held transmitter with three buttons marked for the resident to signal a medical emergency, request non-medical assistance or ask a question of staff.

The transmitter’s signal would be picked up by antennas installed at strategic locations throughout the residence. The antennas are powerful enough to receive a signal through certain objects so a line-of-sight to the antenna is not required.

The antenna system relays the signal to a software-defined radio (SDR) set to process the radio communications. 

The software-defined radio determines the location of the device and the button pressed, allowing a pop-up message to be sent to staff on their computers. 

Getting the system up and running in an assisted living centre would cost about $500 per floor, Jersak estimated.

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