Bluetooth ‘Button’ Gives Connection To Phone

The growing product category of “wearables” includes fitness-tracking bracelets, stick-on medical gauges, biometric watches, and things like Google Glass.

This month, I tested a wearable from VSN Mobil. The V.ALRT product looks like a poker chip and weighs 0.3 ounces. It is designed to be worn on a necklace, around your wrist, or clipped on a belt.

V.ALRT next to iPhone (displaying VSN app)

Essentially, the V.ALRT is a button that via Bluetooth can stay in sync with your phone. Its main function is to provide a wireless link to the V.ALRT app, which has tools to alert people in an emergency.

Press and hold the face of the button and it triggers a blaring alarm sound on your phone and also begins a procedure to alert the three people you designate via a custom text message.

V.ALRT can also dial a pre-determined phone number automatically in this mode. In my test, it was configured to dial my wife’s number, and once initiated it automatically turned on my iPhone’s speaker mode so I could talk to her hands-free.

VSN Mobil’s main markets for the product are kids, independent-living elderly, and people with medical conditions. The V.ALRT offers a connection at the push of a button with kids’ parents or other pre-programmed phone numbers.

For active and outdoorsy people, the product is most appropriate as a safety tool. If you are on a run or bike ride and are injured (and can’t reach your phone) the button gives a link.

Another scenario is for personal safety. With a phone out of reach, for instance in your pocket or a backpack, the V.ALRT button offers a quick way to initiate communication if you feel threatened.

Keep the button on a keychain

Finally, the button has an accelerometer built-in. It can be set to sense when you take a hard fall. If you crash on a bike ride the device will sense the motion and initiate the emergency texts and call. It sends your GPS location, too, so someone can find you.

I tested all of these situations, simulating the bike crash with a purposeful fall on the ground. It sensed the motion and worked with the app to go into its contact protocol. You can cancel the procedure in a false alarm by pressing a button on the phone screen.

V.ALRT mounts in an included bracelet

Caveats? You need a smartphone that has Bluetooth 4.0 LE as well as data service for the V.ALRT to work. (This is many new phones.) It works only in cell-phone range, so don’t expect to use this device in the wilderness.

Also, the setup does not support 911 calls; it will only text or call regular phone numbers.

The V.ALRT costs $59.99 and requires no monthly or annual service fee. It does not require charging; the device runs off a standard watch battery, which the brand cites will last for up to a year of use in the city, at home, or on a dark path at night.

Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.