Mark Simmond's Whanganui company GPSOS produces medical and personal alarms with a difference: the user does not have to stay at home for them to be effective.
Last month GPSOS was announced as the winner of the Attitude ACC Employer Award, employing staff members with a disability, "with the goal of bringing social change and results in staff having greater empathy and understanding for their clients because of their own experiences."
The company is also ACC accredited.
"Our new technology means we can monitor temperature and heart of our customers," says Mark. "So if you have anything going wrong, we know about it.
"We've saved 40 lives, so far."
Mark prefers to call his devices independence alarms … "Because you can go anywhere with our technology."
As long as you and your alarm are in cell phone range, you are free to roam, and that includes overseas.
The devices are designed as attractive pendants to be worn about the neck.
Each device has its own sim card and is locatable by GPS.
"We have something none of the others have, and that is two-way talking," says Operations and Monitoring Manager, Tammi Blair.
"When they set off the pendant, it sends off a GPS location to our monitoring centre (in Whanganui), so they know where you are. Right behind that, the pendant then rings the monitoring station," says Mark.
We tested a device. I pressed the button. It beeped. "It's now pinging our location through to our monitoring team," says Tammi. "They get a text message sending the location to them, then the pendant calls the team and they will answer, 'GPSOS, is everything ok?'" GPS is accurate to within five metres.
The pendant wearer can respond, if able. No button to push, just talk.
"For Alzheimer's patients we have what we call an invisible geo-fence," says Mark. "So if a patient leaves home it alerts us that they've left and we can live track them."
Pendants also come with fall detection.
"If you fall, we know," says Mark.
"We're all about independent living. It allows older people to stay living in their homes for longer."
People on their own can push the button and get in touch with the monitoring team if they need any sort of help, right down to an urgent plumbing job if a pipe has broken, for example.
"We've got an escalation plan," says Tammi. "Depending on what their situation is, their data comes up when the call goes through. If it's an emergency we can call emergency services."
As a monitoring company GPSOS is not allowed to hold medical information and until the button is pushed they are unaware of the client's location.
"For family harm they have a silent call, so they push the button, the call comes through and we're listening in silently while we're contacting the police."
"There's a safe word they can use," says Mark.
Everything, including the charger, is designed for ease of use, taking into account disabilities or difficulties. If the device is dropped, fall detection is activated.
As well as the pendants, smart ceramic watches will soon be added to the product line.
"The reason we call it the Independence Alarm is because we've got older ladies who slowly stopped visiting each other, confined to their homes. Now they know they can go out," says Tammi.
"If you go overseas we can switch it to 'roaming'."
GPSOS came about out of necessity. Mark knew there had to be something better than the existing personal alarms, but, search as he might around the world, he couldn't find exactly what he wanted.
"I'll take the best bits of everything I can and build my own," he says. "We started building the technology three years ago."
Eighteen months ago they started training staff.
Those monitoring can warn clients if their pendant needs charging or even if they've accidentally switched it off.
"We've had no failures," says Mark. "No-one else can do what we do."
GPSOS has a website with lots more information – GPSOS.co.nz