Hackaday Prize Entry: Inexpensive Emergency Button

I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. We all remember it, and we all know what product we’re talking about. Now, with cheap microcontrollers, ubiquitous WiFi, and wearable electronics, there must be a simpler solution. [Jean Paradedel]’s emergency button project is designed to replace those wearable emergency buttons, which usually include an expensive call center plan.

[Jean]’s button is based off an ESP8266 module, which sends an email to a care provider if a button is pressed. The whole thing is powered by a CR2032 watch battery and the device’s case was 3D printed. The interface is simple — it’s just a wearable button, after all — and the form factor is small enough to be completely unobtrusive.

[Jean] reflashed the ESP8266 board with a simple sketch that runs the project. First, a button-press connects the device to WiFi and then blinks an LED so you know it’s connected. When the emergency button is pressed, an email is sent out letting a caregiver know that there’s a problem.

Check out the video below for a demo of this cheap emergency button in action.

26 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: Inexpensive Emergency Button

  1. The monthly service fee is twice the BOM. (SMTP2go is $14/month on lowest plan). Is there a way to get that down by having a local device as SMTP server? In my experience it’s the perpetual cost and hassle of a monthly bill that has discouraged us from using these kind of systems.

    Looking further it looks like the msmtp package in OpenWRT can do sending through a gmail account pretty easily. So maybe a hacked Zsun hanging off a USB power brick elsewhere on the network?

  2. Why not do this with the ESP to a Mobile Phone cheap android on charge all the time prepaid credit by Year.

    Picked up a crappy one this morning for 18 USD.

    All these emergency providers for the elderly or disabled charge onwards of $40 a month SMTP2Go $14 Hahahaa haha no you’re a mail server gtfo My hosting service with a mail server and other services comes to $30 for the entire year they want to pull that kind of pricing SMTPJUSTGOKILLYOURSELF.

    1. The services I’m aware of have staff monitoring the alerts to be able to communicate with the client to insure the client didn’t accidentally trigger the system and to get additional information to pass on the the PS dispatcher. suggesting using crappy hardware for a critical application? Can only hope you aren’t build systems that others depend on.

    2. Yep, this is another good solution,
      But I think there is still a free 1 thousand message/month offer with SMTP2GO.
      I just gave this website as an exemple… we can use any of them ;)

    1. The majority of people that need such a device tend to be essentially, if not literally, home bound… I don’t think WiFi is really a hinderance.

      If the person with the button also has WiFi internet access, they should have access to their ISP’s SMTP servers, right?

  3. Assumes an internet connection at the residence. The reason there’s internet and WiFi at my mom’s hope is because one of mt sisters pays for it so she and the rest of use don’t chew up data on internet connectivity. For many families the cost of services that have actual people on call to speak with the indiidual is worth the peace of mind and allows busy people to live their lives knowing emergencies service will be page out if there’s a slightest hint that’s necessary.

  4. This is a good implementation of a simple, low-cost solution and I applaud the creator for that.

    That being said, as someone who is the care provider for an infirm parent, if I were to implement something like this, I’d rather have an SMS notification than an email, as it’s less likely to get lost in the inbox, so I might up the cost another few bucks and implement a RasPi basestation with a Python Twilio or IFTTT interface for that.

    One other issue that I can see from this is the problem of false positives. The expensive “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” buttons have an actual microphone/speaker built in to the button so the operator can assess the situation and figure out if there is an actual emergency. You’d be surprised how often those buttons get bumped by accident (or pressed for a non-emergency situation).

    As a caregiver, you want to be there all the time for your loved one, but caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint, and the ability to quickly triage the ‘surprises’ will ultimately help stay balanced over the long term.

    I think an approach like this could definitely be helpful in some situations but is probably best used as part of a set of tools and/or controls.

    1. Thanks ^^
      This project is, of course, not a final product. There is a lot of way to improve it. Beginning for me with the reliability of the ESP8266, I don’t think it’s the best for a life-saving wifi device…

      As you mentioned the false positive, I ll add the problem of people who forget or just can’t press the button. When they fall, they panic –> pressing a button isn’t obvious for anyone :(

      I am already thinking of the Version 2 of this project, adding several sensors (DOF? Microphone? so many possibilities!)

  5. I got my Mom a system that was, essentially, a tiny cordless phone with an emergency call button.
    Small enough to hang on her neck. The button could be programmed with multiple numbers.
    I especially liked the algorithm: It called up to 4 numbers in a row – announced that the person answering had to push the #3 button right away, and if they didn’t it went to the next number. You could set 911 as the last number.
    Extra, rechargeable batteries, low battery alarm (sent out to a phone number – mine). etc etc
    BUT you needed a landline. Not a cell phone, a cordless phone.
    Still available – Freedom alert – about $150 and no monthly charges.
    I know this sounds like an ad, but it was invaluable to me taking care of my Mom who wanted to live (alone) in her house.
    I gifted the device to another when my Mom no longer needed it.
    The only addition that would have been nice would have been a drop detector. But the times she fell she always managed to push the button.

    1. Sounds like a good product. I have to keep working on this project to have a better “Alert communication”, email isn’t of course the best solution.
      Thanks for the advices :)

  6. Nice project but I think this 2-button behavior can be too complicated, especially in stress situation. I would leave one button, which turns power on and then is pulled by software until it’s needed. Additionally I would add microphone so something could be recorded and send with message to know what’s going on and if it’s not a false alarm. ESP has analog input so only some simple amp will be needed.

    1. Yes, a microphone is a great idea! Maybe some DOF sensors too…
      I will probably change the ESP to have a more reliable system. I have to keep working on it!
      Thanks for the advice!

  7. Other comments have mentioned the expense of the commercial units, and suggested other ways to implement such a
    “Lassie” device (Timmy has fallen in the well!).
    I’m here just to mention that part of the expense of the commercial units may be protection against lawsuits. (Grandma died while wearing your device, so it’s your fault!) Whether such “protection” is keeping a high powered legal service on retainer, or the “man in the middle” to prevent false alarm reporting.
    I mean, there are many cheaper ways to implement a call for help than a commercial unit, but should you decide to enter “the arena” you’ll need to be able to cover a lot of scenarios, including frivolous lawsuits.

  8. At first glance I thought this was a mechanical device, not an electronic one.

    So… hey… that is an idea!

    Did everyone read the article a while back about the old TV and even older radio remote controls that never used batteries? They were just tuning forks tuned to inaudible frequencies with hammers attached to the buttons.

    How about one of those on a chain for the elderly or otherwise impaired to wear? Receivers placed around the house could run off of wall current. There would be no batteries to replace!

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