Friday, January 06, 2012

CES 2012 Preview: Life Alert for Heirs

While most of the buzz around the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas centers around the latest smart phones, touchscreen pads, and 3D televisions, a surprise entrant in this year's fray is Life Alert. Life Alert is most famous for its commercials featuring frail pensioners flailing about on the floor, woodenly wailing "Help! I've fallen, and I can't get up!" For nearly 25 years, the company's bread and butter has been selling products and services geared toward the health and safety of senior citizens. However, jumping into a market apparently spawned by the economic downturn of recent years, Life Alert will soon sell a service aimed toward children and grandchildren of the elderly teetering on the brink of poor health and mobility.

The equipment for the new service, dubbed Life Alert for Heirs, looks identical to the current incarnation, but the system does not contact an ambulance or fire department when the button on the pendant is pressed. Instead, it will play a message previously recorded by one of the ailing elder's heirs. In the promotional video shown to reporters this morning, a thin white-haired senior writhed on her kitchen floor in pain. In response to her button press, the system barked in the tinny, digitized voice of a husky sounding man. "Hello, Grandma. This is David. Sorry to do this, but this system won't contact emergency services until you agree to sign over your power of attorney and assets to me. To approve this, simply press your pendant button three times in a row. Per your contract with Life Alert, this will act as a legally binding electronic signature. Once this signal is received, emergency services will be contacted. Love you, Grandma!" Less expensive versions of the system will simply make passive note of the emergency request and send no help.