Locator for remote areas: Is there a GPS-enabled device with fall detection that works in rural and remote areas?

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Is there a GPS-enabled device with fall detection that works in rural and remote areas?


Can you offer a suggestion as to the beat locating device that has a GPS and fall detection? We live in a rural area and my husband likes to go for walks on the local trails.

Our answer

Walking local trails is a great way to get exercise and enjoyment, but there is a risk associated with it, especially when going alone. There are several GPS trackers that are commercially available.

Before using GPS tracking, is is important to take the ethical impacts of using GPS to track someone into consideration. If possible, the decision to be tracked should be made in collaboration with the individual, and consent should be obtained (from them or their substitute decision-maker). For more information on this issue, you may want to read an article from the National Institutes of Health in the U.S.

Since you’re in a rural area it’s important to note that these devices often rely on cell service for accuracy and to send information. Here are some products that have GPS location and fall detection:

  • GoSafe by Philips (at lifeline.ca) is a GPS-enabled mobile medical alert pendant with fall detection. This product costs about $75 (CDN) per month and there is an upfront administration fee of $35 (CDN). Lifeline users are encouraged to press their button to test the system.
  • LivingWell Companion Go by Telus is a wearable, 24/7 personal emergency response system that connects to trained operator when the button is pressed or a fall is detected. This GPS-enabled system can be used inside and outside of the home within Canada. The coverage depends on the mobile service in the area. You can provide location details to ensure there is coverage in your area before purchasing. This products costs about $55 (CDN) per month and that includes fall detection. It can be ordered by phone at 1-888-505-8008 or online at telus.com/livingwell
  • Premium Mobile Plus+ by LifeAssure is a mobile system that uses cellular technology. It can be used inside and outside of the home wherever cell tower are within range. It costs about $70 (CDN), plus $14 (CDN) for fall detection, a month. This product can be ordered online or over the phone by calling 1-800-354-5706.

In this Alzheimer Society document on Locating Devices there is a helpful checklist for comparing locating devices that you may find useful in making a decision.

While the devices above offer GPS location and fall detection they are limited by their access to cellular service. For communication in an emergency many hikers use systems that work off of satellites to make the connection so that they are no longer restricted by cellular service. Unfortunately, these products do not have fall detection:

  • 4G Senior GPS Tracker Watch by Lil Tracker is a GPS tracking wristwatch with several other useful features. Geofencing allows the caregiver to set a digital fence – an area that can be considered safe – and if the senior wanders beyond the fence, then the caregiver is alerted right away. The device can be used for two-way communication and to send SOS signals. This product costs about $190 (CDN) but it will require a SIM card with a plan on a compatible network. Lil Tracker offers SIM cards and pre-paid plans - $42 (CDN) for three months, $72 (CDN) for six months, and $120 (CDN) for one year.
  • SPOT Trace by SPOT is a simple GPS enabled device meant for tracking assets such as a boat. The system will send a text or an email if movement is detected and then that movement is tracked using SPOT Mapping on a phone or computer. This device was not designed for people since there is no button or distress signal for a carrier to activate. It is however a simple solution to place in a backpack for an individual who would not be likely to interact with a device. The device costs about $175 (USD) with basic plans beginning at about $10 (USD) a month for a one-year contract or $13 (USD) a month on a month-to-month plan.
  • SPOT Gen4 by SPOT is a more interactive device than the Trace. It includes SPOT Mapping, but also allows for the individual to send SOS messages to search and rescue authorities, help messages and check-in messages with coordinates to personal contacts. The device costs about $190 (USD) and the plans are the same as the Trace: about $10 (USD) a month for a one-year contract or $13 (USD) a month on a month to month plan.
  • InReach Mini by Garmin is a compact satellite communicator enabled with two-way text messaging. It does allow for friends and family to monitor the user’s location on a map. The product itself costs about $450 (CDN) but most of the features require a subscription to the global iridium network and plans in Canada start at about $80 (CDN) a month.

You might be interested in reading two of our articles: one on Fall Detectors and another on GPS-Trackers.

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