Many people ask, “how does fall detection work?” The accelerometer and gyroscope is the technology responsible for automatic fall detection in medical alert device pendants. These sensors detect your everyday activity and can sense a falling motion.  It is also built into many other devices you may own such as your smartphone.  An accelerometer measures the change in your velocity or speed divided by time. Think about when you change the position of your smartphone and the orientation of your screen changes with it. That is the accelerometer technology at work! According to LiveScience, a gyroscope is a device that uses the Earth’s gravity to help determine orientation. Both of these applications working together can work effectively to detect falls in seniors.

Although this technology has been built into smartphones for a while, the difference is the new Apple Watch claims to have created custom algorithms to more accurately sense when a fall has taken place. One of the criticisms of automatic fall detection in the past has been that it is not always accurate in detecting falls with one recent study showing it detected 12 out of 15 actual falls.

With this new Apple Watch feature, if it senses the user has been immobilized, it will give you an option to choose if you are ok or if you want to call emergency services. If there is no activity for more than 60 seconds, it will automatically call for help from emergency services and send your emergency contacts your location. Getting help fast in these emergency situations is often times key for potentially saving someone’s life.


According to the CDC, over 800,000 seniors are hospitalized due to an injury from a fall. Seniors who fall can easily break a hip and that may lead to other complications. Falls are also the leading cause of death from injury among adults 65 and older. With the integration of this technology in devices such as an automatic fall detection pendant, fall detection watch or the new Apple Watch, falls can be treated quickly and hopefully more efficiently to help prevent some of those death by injury falls. In fact, a man in Spokane, Washington credits the Apple Watch for saving his father who fell off his bicycle and was left unconscious. The Apple Watch detected his fall and called his emergency contacts as well as emergency services who were able to find the man and take him for treatment.

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