Silent Beacon REVIEW Wearable Emergency Alert
One of my favorite aspects of modern smartphones is the ability to customize the experience with additional Bluetooth accessories. Beyond simply adding a colorful or protective case/shell, these peripheral devices utilize the phones sensors, contacts, camera, GPS, etc., in unique and interesting ways. Roughly two to three years ago, while trekking the show floor at CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, I came upon a product named Silent Beacon. I had a very long discussion with a few members from the company and was excited to learn more about their Bluetooth emergency alert button. More than a simple fall alert button, the device hinted at a variety of potential uses. I waited patiently and revisited their booth at the Venetian over the course of at least two different CES events. I had all but given up hope that I would get to review the device when out of the blue, I received a phone call from the sales team. They noted that they had my business card from a past CES and wanted to know if I would like to review their product. Excitedly, I responded affirmatively.
The Silent Beacon Wearable Safety Device arrived in an attractive blue 6 1/2 inches tall by 4 1/2 inches wide by 1 1/2 inches thick retail box. The cover vividly displayed the Silent Beacon logo across the top and provided four useful pentagonal icons along the bottom. The guitar pick shaped icons detailed the water resistance (5 water drops), rechargeable nature (battery with a lightning bolt), two-way audio (dual circular arrows), vibration (wavy lines around the device), and multi-color lights (LED). Across the middle of the cover, Silent Beacon provided a crisp, glossy 1 3/8 inches wide by 1 3/4 inches tall, image of their device. I liked the top-to-bottom, dark-to-light, blue gradient of the packaging. Starting with the 1 1/2 inches tall cardboard hang tab and working inferiorly, the color started with a steel blue and ended with a sapphire color. The glowing white font was perfectly selected for the blue background and contrasted beautifully against the surface. The left side panel provided front/back and side images of the Silent Beacon device. The right side panel listed the package contents (Silent Beacon, Accessory Clip, Quick Start Guide, Link to App and 3 foot USB Mini Cable) and product compatibility (iPhone 4S and later, iPad with Retina Display and later, Android 4.4 and later, Bluetooth 4.0, latest App download). Turning the box onto the cover, I was surprised to find five vivid, full-color, photograph quality images and three colorful icons. Utilizing the same white font against the blue background, Silent Beacon detailed the ability for the device to place phone calls, send customizable alerts, to alert you to battery level and when to recharge, and tracks GPS coordinates. The bottom panel provided the Silent Beacon logo, model number, SCU and trademark information and the top panel provided a subtle map with “Alert Start” and “Alert End.”
Lifting the magnetic front flap, my attention was immediately drawn to the 2 1/16 inches diameter clear plastic window. I enjoyed the clear view of the Silent Beacon device and the use of the surrounding panel to serve as a labeled diagram. Arrows detailed the reinforced area for attaching keychains/lanyards, the large speaker with noise cancelling microphone, indented buttons to reduce false alarms, accessory belt clip, water-resistant micro-USB port, multi-colored LED lights for alerts in lower light situations, vibration function and enlarged buttons for easier access. The left panel provided six 7/16 inches diameter circular-icons detailing the features of the device/app. You can call/email/text pre-stored numbers, share your GPS location with contacts, nudge your friends and let them know that you are safe, and find your phone like a tracker. I lifted the top flap and slid out the egg-carton like product tray. I found the two inches diameter, 0.8 ounce, Silent Beacon device, a 41-inches long USB-A to USB-Micro Cable, legal forms and a tri-lingual instruction manual. Before perusing the manual, I navigated to the App Store, on my iPhone XS Max, to download the App, and I placed the Silent Beacon on charge. The manual provided introductory comments, a list of device features, warnings and safety information and then a device overview. After at least twenty-minutes of charging, I opened the App, allowed notifications, location services (Only While Using the App) and then agreed to the terms and conditions.
From the main App screen, you will see the “SILENT BEACON” logo, images of white, blue, pink and black devices and then three touch buttons: “Register,” “Login,” and “Buy the Device.” I tapped the “Register” button, entered my name, phone number, and email address. The App sent my phone a four-digit verification text code to enter into the field. The App asked for the ability to “Import from Contacts,” or “Manually add a Contact.” I chose to import from contacts, which allowed me to select people from my list. If desired, you can manually enter a name, contact number/email address. Make sure to enter someone else’s contact information first and do not enter your own, because the device will attempt to call your phone. I made the mistake of adding my own contact information first, followed by my wife’s information second. Every time that I pressed the buttons on the device, it sent an SMS message signal to both my wife’s phone and to my phone but it only called mine. I was unable to delete my contact, once entered, as it seemed to store the first contact into memory. I held the buttons on the device for thirty seconds, to reset the Beacon, and then walked through the setup steps again.
The App was very intuitive and easy to navigate. To formally test the device, I added the phone number and email of my wife and made sure to not add my phone/information as a contact. The App asked if I wanted to invite the contact and then sent them an email to download the App to their smartphone. I needed to select and enter a four-digit password for the device and then I was instructed to place the device near the phone. I tapped the plus icon along the middle of the screen and once paired, the Silent Beacon device vibrated and flashed blue three times. The App then directed me to simultaneously depress both buttons, which caused the Silent Beacon to flash blue. When in pairing mode, I navigated to settings, Bluetooth and chose SB Alert (last 4 digits of phone number) from the list. I entered 0000 as the Pin and then the device vibrated and flashed blue five times.
Within the App you will notice six icons: Settings, Alert, Contacts, Nudge, Find, and Footsteps. If you tap settings, you can then access App Settings (My information, password Protection, Customize Messages, Mute Sounds, Subscription, Remove device, Delete Account, Logout), Buy a Device ($89.99), Device Settings (Device information, Firmware Update, Factory Reset) and Online Help. When I tapped Online Help, the App navigated to a Safety App Instructions page. I found this webpage to be quite useful and would have liked for the information to be presented within the instruction manual. The instructions provided the necessary details about the alert feature, nudge feature, footsteps feature, contacts and the find feature. Returning to the main App, if I pressed Alert, it activated the Silent Beacon and it asked if I wanted to call my wife’s cell phone. If I tapped contacts, I could then add new contacts by tapping the “+” icon along the top or touch individual contacts to modify settings. I was able to toggle on/off Call Number, Text messaging, Push Notifications, Low Battery Alert, Email Notifcations, Nudge, Footsteps.” If desired, tapping the trashcan icon will delete the contact and tapping the “i” icon will provide some additional contact details. Returning to the main App screen, you can press nudge to announce your safety. The Find feature will help you to find the device like a Tile tracker and the Footsteps will let your contacts see where you have traveled. I would have preferred the Footsteps feature to be a one time purchase and not a monthly feature, but I understand the business model.
As a parent, I believe that I most appreciated the nudge feature. Imagine how peaceful you may rest, after you received a note that your child arrived safely at their destination. Let your spouse know you made it safely to or from work, the store or another venue. Should they need help along the way, they can simply activate the beacon, to call friends/family or even program it to call 911 directly. Purchase a Silent Beacon for your aging parent or grandparent so that they can alert you if they fall. Place the Silent Beacon on a lanyard and go for a bike ride or jog and make an emergency call to friends, family or the authorities, if needed. When I pressed the alert buttons on the side of the device or the “Alert” icon on my phone App, the Silent Beacon vibrated, flashed and I received a text that “Jonathan Walters needs your help” and saw a Google Earth image of my home. I loved that I could customize this message within the App, to send a personalized message.
In addition to SMS messages and emails, the app called my wife’s contact number. When active, the device will vibrate, the LED will flash and it has a microphone/speaker for two way communication. The speaker was clear but there was not a way to turn up/down the speaker volume. However, it can be muted. If under duress, you can activate the Silent Beacon by pressing both of the buttons to enter into alert mode and then long press a single button to silence the speaker and device. To end an alert, you will need to hold the buttons for twenty seconds or to tap the alert icon within the App and then enter your password. With typical use, the device will last about a week on a single four-hour charge. I was pleased with the included belt clip, with the option to add the device to my key ring, with the battery life, and with the overall quality of the build. The belt clip held firmly to my belt and only fell off a few times when I turned and bumped it directly. The device survived unscathed, three waist-high falls onto carpeted flooring and once upon tiled flooring. The included instruction manual was a little lacking in detail, but the online features proved to be rewarding. I was also quite impressed with Tyler, the company Sales Manager and his willingness to quickly return my emails. I love to invest in companies who care about their people and who want to see their hard work come to fruition.
Whether you are out for a late night stroll or you are looking for a way for your parents or grandparents to call for help after a fall, the Silent Beacon may be the device for you. Once you buy the device, you get most of the features without any monthly payments. Truthfully the Footsteps feature could be helpful for a parent sending their child to camp, out on a date or to a sporting event. If desired, you can activate the feature and pay the minimal $1.99 per month fee. The cost was reasonable, the App features were more than reasonable, the battery life proved reasonable, the four hour charge time was perfect and the weight was negligible. Other than an initial hiccup, which was my fault, the device/App combination simply worked.
Originally published at macsources.com on March 11, 2019.