Lively, SafetyWatch: Review

Lively, SafetyWatch: Review

The Basics

Product name: Safety Watch 

Manufacturer / Distributor: GreatCall (Lively)

Compilation: 9/1/14. Updated Q4 2015


This page contains our GreatCall (Lively) | Safety Watch review.



Analyst Summary: GreatCall (Lively) | Safety Watch

The Lively SafetyWatch is two products rolled into one. It is a set of activity-tracking home sensor systems. But in addition in 2015 the company added an emergency alert in the form of a SafetyWatch. We initially covered this product as part of our home sensor guide in 2014. We are now updating our coverage to include the SafetyWatch, as part of our analysis of personal emergency response systems (Q4 2015). In Nov 2015 Lively was acquired by GreatCall.

This is one of the few emergency alert systems that look stylish and as if you might want one even if you don't need one. We acquired one and included it in our testing of personal emergency response systems. Scroll down to see our discussion and hands-on testing.

NOTE: As of mid 2017, GreatCall has discontinued this product and it is no longer available nor supported.

Jump to our hands-on evaluation of the SafetyWatch

Background Factoids (Home sensor System)


VC funded startup from Silicon Valley

Analyst Notes

  • Low cost, rapidly gaining traction.
  • Livelygram provides weekly senior mailings. Serves as senior interface of sorts.
  • Sensor range lower than security-type sensor systems. 
  • UI designed to be rather simple.
  • Excellent pr campaign. Long list of news articles about the product on the Lively website.
  • Less complex (powerful) alerting and ADL tracking than, say, BeClose. But perhaps it is all you need for the lower intensity components of monitoring. And it is clearly simple, inexpensive and easy to use.
  • Description of future mobile PERS and activity tracker sound rather well conceived. PERS was not yet released when we compiled this data (Aug. 2014) so details remain to be seen.


Detailed Feature Set (Home Sensor System)

Feature Type Product Characteristics
What job(s) does it do?  
Check Dad is generally OK. Watch for significant changes in daily routine. Yes
Automatically detect (& promptly alert on) specific adverse events Limited
Senior can summon help promptly in emergency Not yet. Coming Nov. 2014. Now released (The Lively "Watch". See here for a discussion and "evaluation".)
Track wellness and health parameters No, in the basic form. The watch adds ability to track steps.
Reduce stress for in-home caregivers, and allow them to sleep (rest) without worrying. N/A
Type of Monitoring  
1. Check general daily routine is more or less "normal". Yes
2. Watch what they do and when they do it, and catch unusual activity patterns Limited
3. Detect specific (adverse) events (eg tub, stove, get out of bed) Very limited and indirect
4. Detect falls automatically No
5. 24/7 Human monitoring of activity patterns and sensor alerts No
Normal vs Abnormal  
Who decides what abnormal is (for alert on absence of stuff)? User
Is there AI support to help learn what is normal?? No
Required Techie-ness to set up "normal vs abnormal" Low
Who is the first (second etc) responder?  
For system triggered alerts Designated "friend(s)"
For senior calls for help N/A
Sensor approach  
Sensor family High volume consumer sensors
Sensor types Accelerometers, key fob presence/absence
Senior interface  
Senior interface for general monitoring None for activity tracker. Livelygram as fringe benefit
Senior can summon help promptly in emergency: which approach? N/A. Watch does this, but we have not yet evaluated it in depth.
Friends & Family interface  
Activity time line streams for individual sensors Available but limited
Red/green/yellow for status for individual sensors Yes
Open API Not yet. Planned for Q1, 2015.
Friends & Family interface platforms Browser based. Also App for Android and iOS.
Alert handling Fairly simple set of alerts are possible. Set up a "routine" such as once per day or twice per day, and if sensor not triggered on that timing then system triggers alerts
Ownership issues  
Ease of Use & service Not tested. Clearly a focus for the company.
Installation: DIY or Professional Designed to be consumer install. Comes in mail. Sticky backs on sensors. 
Privacy & Security  
Data center robustness and maturity Use Amazon AWS.
Who owns the data The company
Privacy policy Yes. On website.
Will it work in your house?  
Sensor range (max in air) 100-150 ft in air. Claim works fine for 3-4,000 sq. ft home. Can get range extender from third party
Communication to data storage "cloud" (need at least one of these)  
Landline Not required
Cellular reception Needed
Home Internet & WiFi network Not required
Battery backup in base station (in case of power outage) No
Stage of deployment Traction (1,000-10,000). "Many thousands in first six months"
Company maturity & stability Shipping since 9/2013. 
Published studies showing "it works" Rather small pilot study at Eskaton about to be published. Promising results about stress reduction in the family of seniors. Request copy from Lively.
Acquiring it (July 2014)  
Countries available (or soon to be available) USA, Australia#, UK, Mexico, Canada
Two year costs* $619
Where to Buy it Lively website, Amazon, Hills (Australia)
* typically 6 sensor package if have that.  
Techie stuff  
Sensor to base station communication prototcols Bluetooth LTE

#: In August 2015, this product was discontinued in Australia by the distributor, Hills, who had previously carried it. In mid 2015 the product was introduced in UK, Canada and Mexico.


Hands-on evaluation

We acquired the latest version of the SafetyWatch in Nov. 2015.

Unboxing the SafetyWatch, Q4 2015

By: Richard Caro.  Updated: November 17, 2016.


This product comes in an elegant consumer-electronics type package. Inside the box, the packaging is beautifully designed like an Apple product. Unpacking it is almost exciting. The only other product we tested that comes close to this "unboxing" excitement is the Splash.

For the purposes of our PERS project, we ignored the sensors that can be distributed around the house, although we have them running already at another location with a different tester. For this report we are focusing on the SafetyWatch.


The package contents

Lively Unboxed


The wearable

The wearable in this case is a nice looking "watch". It tells the time, looks a bit like an Apple Watch, and is something one could certainly imagine wearing all the time. In addition it can count your steps and generate an activity report on a daily basis for either the older adult using the product, or the family member who is "worrying" about them.

To summon help, you press the large orange button on the side of the watch.




Field testing, initial days

By: Richard Caro.  Updated: December 29, 2015.


As part of our ongoing PERS evaluations we tested this product out over a period of a few days.

At home only

The first thing we learned was that this product does not yet let you use it "out and about". This was disappointing. The company has plans to allow you to use the SafetyWatch away from the home, using a cell phone as a mobile base station. But this capability is not yet implemented.

So, for now you can use the product only in range of the base station in your home, although the company claims it will work as far away as 1500 feet from the base station.

Field testing: the first month

By: Richard Caro.  Updated: December 29, 2015.


Having worn this product around for most of the month I have to say I rather like it. An 82 yr old relative has also been wearing it (for several months) and she likes it too.

Having said that, it is not perfect. Below are the pluses and minuses.

The pluses

Stylish: This product looks stylish. It is easy to imagine wearing it around all the time, and it avoids the stigma attached to most of the other ugly emergency response pendants we have covered. This is a BIG deal, because if you don't wear these products they cant help you.

Step counter: It measures the number of steps you take each day, and thus 9like a Fitbit) provides feedback and some stimulation to exercise regularly. For people with the personality type to be influenced by this feedback loop (which includes me) this can lead to improived physical fitness, with numerous health benefits. Of course it is no different to wearing a Fitbit. But it is nice not to need two products on your wrist.

Watch: It is a watch. It tells the time. It can be used instead of a watch. Again, one less "thing".

It works: The product seems to work as well as any of the others in terms of being reliable and calling for help when you press the orange button. It has a very healthy range from the watch to the base station. It worked out in the garden of my moderately large house. 

The minuses

Two way voice less optimal: Unlike most of these products, the Lively safety watch does NOT include a speaker phone in the base station. So when you press the emergency button, the responder tries to contact you via your phone rather than via the base station or via the pendant. With most of the conventional emergency response systems, the responder calls to you from the speaker phone and you call back to them. This allows you and the responder to interact even if you are on the floor and cannot get to the phone.

This also has some implications for false alarms. If the button is pressed and the responder calls you but you dont answer the phone (eg you are in the garden) they will send the emergency services to your house. If the responder calls to you from the speakerphone, or even better talks to you from your pendant, it seems to me false alarms are less likely.

Step count "high": I wore the Lively watch on one hand and a Basis fitness tracker on the other for a week to compare step counts from the two products. My relative also did some informal step count comparisons. In my case, the Lively product was roughly 25% higher than the Basis. In talking to the company, I gather this is a known phenomenon and related to some intentional design decisions. I don't actually think this matters at all, since to me it is the relative changes in step count over time compared to a baseline that matter. But it would be best to be aware of this up front to avoid confusion.



Field evaluation by Mary Hulme, Geriatric Care Manager

By: Mary Hulme.  Updated: December 29, 2015.


As a geriatric consultant and care manager who is extremely interested in technology and products that might keep older people safely at home, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity recently* to wear the Lively watch over the course of a few weeks.  This experience allowed me to get a firsthand sense of what this product does, how it works and, most importantly, what it might do for my elderly clients and their families.  

First, the watch arrived in very elegant packaging and yes, this is important.  My clients and their families care about aesthetics and presentation (note the recent and long-overdue updates to hearing aids, canes and walkers). 

The Lively watch itself is streamlined, handsome and quite noticeable.   In fact, I must give kudos to Lively for both the design of the watch AND for the company’s decision to introduce it a month or so before Apple introduced their new watch.  Perhaps this was a coincidence, but I must report that no less than 20 people stopped me…at a PTA meeting, on the streetcar, at a fundraiser, at my bookclub…and they all wanted to know whether I was wearing the new Apple watch (of course, it certainly did not hurt that the Apple watch was not yet available to the public). 

If nothing else, these frequent questions allowed me a natural opportunity to educate the asker(s) about the watch and its interesting features. 

So, what did I think?  Here are my impressions…

Mary's Likes:

1. Appearance: 

Elegant, streamlined, visually-appealing.

2. Timepiece: 

Large, easy-to-read letters and numbers.  Time and date clearly shown.  My 92 year old client is very pleased.

3. Pedometer: 

Do I care that my elderly client walks approximately 8,000/steps per day?  No.  Do I care that they suddenly start walking 2,000/steps per day?  Yes.

4. Emergency alert button: 

Most of my clients refuse to wear the Lifeline pendant as it is bulky and obvious.  The Lively watch is a much better-looking alternative.

5. In/out of home notification system: 

For older people that are active and driving, especially at night, it is nice that a family member will be notified if they fail to return home as expected.


Mary's Dislikes:

1. Size: 

As someone with a very small wrist, I found the watch a bit too large and slightly uncomfortable.  I imagine my frail, elderly female clients might agree.

2. Battery-life:

The battery is supposed to last 4-6 months.  However, when my “test watch” arrived, it would not work.  After contacting technical support, it was confirmed that the watch battery was dead.  I replaced it with another battery that I had on hand (I cannot guarantee this was a brand new battery).  The battery (and watch) died less than four weeks later. 


Mary's Summary:

Overall, I found the Lively watch to be a simple, non-intrusive and pragmatic product that provides increased support to an older person who wishes to remain at home while also providing reassurance to the family members that worry about them. 


*[actually this evaluation was done by Mary in Q2 2015]



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About this Research

This product review is part of an extensive series of medical alert system reviews of over 50 products, including hands-on evaluation and real-world testing of the most promising ones, in real-world situations.

These reviews and analyses are part of our Research Project designed to help older adults and their families Choose the Right Medical Alert System for YOU — the result of which is our Medical Alert Systems: Selection Guide.

We have tried hard to make this research as independent and objective as possible. It has not been funded or sponsored by any of the vendors of these products, and includes no advertising or "sponsored content". The team that conducted this research has strong scientific, clinical, and aging services backgrounds. You can read more about the team that did this research at the links above. 


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Last Updated: April 30, 2020.


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