Fall detection can, quite literally, be a lifesaver for many people, and especially those who are older or who have mobility issues. You might be wondering if your Fitbit has this feature and, unfortunately, the answer is no. No Fitbit device currently has a fall detection feature. But let’s look into the issue in a bit more depth.
What is fall detection?
Fall detection is a type of medical alert which detects when someone has fallen over and sends a message to their emergency contacts, the emergency services, or both.
You can buy a medical device or medical alert system that is specifically designed for fall detection but the feature is also available on many smartwatches. This is possible because of the sensors that the smartwatches already have.
A smartwatch and a fall detection medical device both contain something called an accelerometer. An accelerometer can detect when the user moves forwards and backward, track the speed of movement, determine body position, and sense gravity.
It is a complex component that uses a test mass that moves along certain channels creating electrical circuits at different points. This allows the smartwatch or medical alert system to collect real-time data about your movements.
When it comes to fall detection, this data can tell the smartwatch or medical device when the wearer has fallen over. This is achieved through the use of specific algorithms that use a model of how a hard fall looks in terms of acceleration, orientation, and gravity.
Then the medical alert system or smartwatch will do one of two things. It will either immediately alert your emergency contact and/or local emergency service or it will initiate a slight delay of a minute or so first. During this delay, if you haven’t gotten up, it will then go ahead with the alert system and send the emergency SOS out.
What are the benefits of fall detection?
As the population ages, more and more digital health technologies are being designed to help people live independently and be healthy for longer.
Nowadays, wearables are no longer solely focused on fitness tracking as they were initially, by measuring heart rate, steps, etc. Alongside these fitness features, most wearables now feature a range of useful health tracking features.
These include everything from sleep tracking to heart rate monitoring that includes atrial fibrillation alerts, and all the way to ECG functionality.
Your smartwatch can now, therefore, become an important element for tracking and maintaining your health. And fall detection can become a key medical guardian for the wearer.
Anyone who lives alone, and especially those with mobility or health issues, knows the fear of falling and not being able to get back up again. You see stories in the news of people who have been stuck on the floor for multiple days because no one realizes that anything has happened.
Fall detection technology can lessen this fear by acting as a failsafe that will alert someone the moment a hard fall occurs.
Do Fitbit devices have a fall detection feature?
There is now a wide range of Fitbit devices on the market, such as Fitbit Sense, Fitbit Charge, and Fitbit Versa. All of these devices are gaining a reputation as having high-quality health and fitness tracking capabilities.
Connecting to Fitbit Premium can give you an array of insights into your health and fitness that are difficult to rival by other wearables.
With that being said, one thing that has always been lacking from Fitbit devices is fall detection features. No Fitbit device has ever featured this option.
It is, however, entirely likely that Fitbit will introduce fall detection to their devices. All of the technology and necessary sensors are already present in the Fitbit Sense, Fitbit Charge, Fitbit Versa, and Fitbit Inspire so the issue isn’t one of hardware but of software. In other words, all Fitbit needs to do is devise and implement the necessary algorithm.
Does my Fitbit smartwatch have any emergency SOS features?
The problem actually goes a little deeper than fall detection alone. With the wearables and medical devices that do have fall detection technology, there is almost always also a failsafe that allows the wearer to manually trigger an emergency SOS.
This is necessary because not all falls will trigger the automatic fall detection algorithm. If, for example, the fall is slower than a hard fall to the ground because you have slipped out of bed.
If wearers find themselves on the floor but the fall detection feature hasn’t automatically alerted their emergency contact or their local emergency service, they will be able to instead press a button that will manually send the alert.
As well as not having automatic fall detection, your Fitbit device also doesn’t have a button you can press that will send an alert to your emergency contact or the emergency services.
If having a medical guardian is an important consideration for you in choosing a fitness tracker or smartwatch, a Fitbit may not at present be the best choice for you.
Which smartwatches do have fall detection?
All is not lost, however, there are plenty of smartwatches that do have a fall detection feature.
Apple Watch was the first smartwatch to implement fall detection technology back in 2018. This feature is present on Apple Watch Series 4 and above as well as Apple Watch SE.
For many people, the Apple Watch’s fall detection makes it the best smartwatch for protecting their health because it is well thought out and it is the only smartwatch currently that will contact emergency services directly.
If the watch senses that you have taken a hard fall, it will first alert you with a vibration, an audio alarm, and an alert on the display. At this point, you can choose to press the button on the display alert that will send an emergency SOS to your local emergency services. Or you can press another button to remove the alert if you are fine.
If you haven’t interacted with the Apple Watch and it detects that you haven’t moved for one minute, it will go ahead and send the Emergency SOS automatically.
This system is great because it lowers the rate of false alarms by giving you a minute to dismiss the alert, but it also ensures that the SOS will be sent if it is necessary.
Even better, once the call to the emergency services has ended, it will also send a message to your nominated emergency contact with your location.
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Samsung Galaxy Watch
Fall detection was first introduced for the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 but is also now available for the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and Active 2.
Unlike the Apple Watch fall detection, your Samsung Galaxy Watch won’t contact the emergency services. Instead, it will send a message to your emergency contact only.
But, like the Apple Watch, it will give you 60 seconds from the time it detects a hard fall for you to dismiss the alert before it sends out the SOS.
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Garmin smartwatches take a different approach to fall detection than the other devices already mentioned. As would be expected from Garmin, their focus is not on fall detection as a medical alert system for people with health issues at home. Instead, it is focused on people who may injure themselves while out and about alone taking part in fitness or sporting activities.
It also isn’t called fall detection. Instead, they name the feature incident detection. It is available on a range of Garmin watches, including Vivoactive 3 and 4, Vivoctive 3 and 4 Music, Fenix 5/6/7, Forerunner 645/645 Music/745/945/945 Lite, and Garmin Lily.
Incident detection works via the smartwatch’s connection with the Garmin Connect app on your smartphone. When it detects a fall, it will allow you some time to dismiss the alert on your watch first. If you don’t, it will send an alert via the app to your nominated emergency contact(s) with your real-time GPS location.
One of the clever features of the Garmin incident detection is that as soon as the alert is sent, it will allow your contact access to instant messaging on your Garmin Connect app. With this, you can tell them more details about what has happened to you.
You can also manually trigger an emergency alert if you find yourself in a difficult situation and this will trigger the same process.
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To wrap up
Out of all the smartwatches available that do have fall detection features available, it does seem odd that Fitbit has yet to implement it themselves. Especially since Fitbit has been investing quite heavily in health monitoring technology in recent years, with sophisticated features such as stress monitoring via skin temperature sensors and its ECG functionality.
There is no word that Fitbit is looking to implement fall detection in the imminent future, although there is no reason why they can’t. So, for now, if this is an important feature for you to have, you may be better off looking at other smartwatches, such as an Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Watch, or a Garmin smartwatch.