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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Phones For Seniors

I recorded some initial research under GPS Trackers and am only recording my conclusions here. I've decided to solve two separate problems.

Elderly Person Needs Phone

My uncle wants a cell phone. He's never used one before. He never uses a computer. He will only use it when traveling or for emergency calls. It needs to be easy to use, have big buttons and a big screen. It should have good battery life. It only needs to provide basic telephone service. He lives in Canada.

Buy the Snapfon ezTwo online from Frontier Computing. It's $99 plus $15 shipping via express post. It arrives in five business days, but requires a signature, so you'll just get a slip in your mailbox which you'll have to take to the post-office the next day.

This is the best phone because it is easiest to use and is unlocked so it works with any provider.

Also buy the SpeakOut Wireless SIM Card ($10) online from 7-Eleven SpeakOut. When adding the SIM card to your shopping cart, select the "$25 Account Top Up". Shipping is free. The rate is 25 cents/minute, but they don't expire for an entire year, however, you are charged $1.25/month for 911 service. Their service map shows pretty good canadian coverage.

This is the best service because it's pay-as-you-go and your credit doesn't expire for a full year, so if you're rarely going to use the phone it's cheaper than any monthly plan.

Unpackage the SIM card. It comes in a credit card sized piece of plastic. You have to punch out the SIM card. The numbers you'll need for activation are written on the large plastic card.

Unpackage the phone. Page 32 of the manual shows how to install the battery and SIM card. Remove the back cover of the phone by pushing away from the SOS button with your thumbs. Record the IMEI number visible inside the phone. You'll need this for activation later. Slide the SIM card under the metal strap with gold contacts facing down as shown on page 33 of the Snapfon manual. Insert the battery, logo side up, so that its contacts line up with the phone's contacts at bottom right. See page 34 of the manual. Charge the phone for 4 hours prior to initialization. I'm not sure that's necessary, but I did it.

Activate the SIM card online by entering the 9-digit activation code printed on the back of the large plastic card in which your SIM card was packaged and the 15-digit IMEI number from the inside of the Snapfon. You'll also need to choose an area to determine what they will bill as a local call. When the activation is complete, they'll tell you what your new phone number is.

You'll need to make an outgoing call before you can receive incoming texts. You can call 611 which is free. Before we do this, we'll activate our "$25 Account Top Up" online. All you need is the phone number (that you just got from activation) and the voucher number, which was in the receipt email and the physical receipt that came with the box. Note, this means anyone can add minutes to the phone, however to view and manage your minutes, you need to open a SpeakOut online account, but we need to receive an SMS on the phone to do that, so we'll set it up first.

Turn on the phone by pressing and holding the red power button on the front of the phone (above the numbers pad) for a few seconds. Dial 611 then press the green phone button to dial. After you hear the recorded greeting press the red power button to hang up.

Next we'll setup the SpeakOut online account. On your computer, register for a SpeakOut online account, and click the link in the confirmation email. That will take you to account number validation which lets you send a text to your new phone which you then enter into the validation form.

The SpeakOut account shows how much money you have on the phone and how long until it will expire.

To configure the phone turn it on and press the top left button to enter the menu. Under settings you'll find that bluetooth is off and the SOS button is configured only as a siren. The user guide is online. I've included the important stuff below.

Voicemail is a feature of the service provider (speakout) not the phone. After you registerd the SIM card, speakout sent you a text telling you to press and hold the 1 button to configure your voicemail. When you do this, the screen will say "Set Voicemail Number First?", to which you must answer yes if you want anything to happen. Then arrow down and enter your new phone number. You've just programmed your phone to dial your own number when you press and hold the 1 key. You setup and access your voice-mail by dialing your own number. When you check your voicemail from your celphone it counts as a phone call and you're charged for it.

You don't have to use the celphone to setup your voicemail. You can dial your celphone's number from a landline. You'll get a message saying that the voicemail isn't setup. Press the # key. You'll get a message saying you need can setup your voicemail. Press the # key again. They'll ask you to choose a PIN and to setup your greeting.

If you won't be using the phone for a long time, press and hold the power button to turn it off. It won't receive calls in this state, they'll go direct to voicemail.

You can add funds to your phone anytime online.

Need To Find Lost Elderly Person

Warning: I had to write my own lookup app. See bottom.

My other uncle has dementia and likes to go for walks alone but might get lost. My aunt needs a device she can put in his pocket which will let her periodically check on his location.

Buy the Huawei Ascend Y215 ($149) online from 7-Eleven SpeakOut. When adding the SIM card to your shopping cart, select the "$50 Account Top Up", currently this gives $20 off the purchase. The phone comes with a SIM card already installed. Shipping is $18.93 and arrives in 3 business days. When they attempt to deliver it and you're not home they leave a slip you can sign to have them leave it at the door the next day.

We will use Where's My Droid to locate the phone. This service uses a web interface called Commander to send a text to the phone which causes the phone to check its GPS location and reply with a text that reports its location. Thus we will only be using this phone for SMS. The SpeakOut pay-as-you-go plan charges ten cents per outgoing text and nothing for incoming texts. Their cheapest plan is $20/month which gives unlimited texts. Thus it is equivalent to the $1.25/month 911 fee plus 187 where's my droid lookups.

Unpackage the phone. The back is already off. You don't need to record the IMEI number visible inside the phone. There is a SpeakOut activation code on the inside of the box. It's presumably already linked to your SIM.

Before installing the battery, active the phone online. You'll need the activation code from the SpeakOut label inside the phone's box, and you'll need to choose an area to determine what they will bill as a local call. When the activation is complete, they'll tell you what your new phone number is.

You'll need to make an outgoing call before you can receive incoming texts. You can call 611 which is free. Before we do this, we'll activate our "$50 Account Top Up" online. All you need is the phone number (that you just got from activation) and the voucher number, which was in the receipt email and the physical receipt that came with the box. Note, this means anyone can add minutes to the phone, however to view and manage your minutes, you need to open a SpeakOut online account, but we need to receive an SMS on the phone to do that, so we'll set it up first.

You've already unpackaged the phone. The back cover was already off. Install the battery so the gold contacts touch and snap on the back cover. The manual doesn't say anything about charging before use, but I plugged it into the wall before powering it on.

Turn on the phone by pressing and holding the power button. It asks you for a google account, which I didn't provide. It asks you for a name, which I did provide. It asks if it's okay to share your location with apps, and I said yes.

Tap the three bars at the bottom right of the screen to see the menu that lets you choose system settings. Tap WiFi to select your network and enter your password.

Tap the home button at bottom center then the menu button at bottom right and choose system settings. Tap "Data Usage" and turn mobile data off.

Tap the home button at bottom center then the menu button at bottom right and choose system settings. Tap "Data Usage" and turn mobile data off.

Before we setup find-my droid, let's setup the SpeakOut online account. Use the phone to call 611, then hangup. Then on your computer, register for a SpeakOut online account, and click the link in the confirmation email. That will take you to account number validation which lets you send a text to your new phone which you then enter into the validation form.

The SpeakOut account shows how much money you have on the phone and how long until it will expire.

You don't have to use the celphone to setup your voicemail. You can dial your celphone's number from a landline. You'll get a message saying that the voicemail isn't setup. Press the # key. You'll get a message saying you need can setup your voicemail. Press the # key again. They'll ask you to choose a PIN and to setup your greeting.

In order to get apps onto the phone from the google play store, you need a google account. You can create one one the phone. Tap "Play Store" on the home screen and choose "New". Choose a new account, password, etc. Once in the app store, search for "wheres my droid" and install the app, and agree to the access it requests. The "where's my droid" tutorial shows that the text "WMD GPS" activates the GPS feature.

On your computer, sign up for a commander account. It will send you confirmation email. After clicking that you'll see that you have no connected devices. You have to login to commander through the app on the phone. After that, if you refresh the devices page in the commander on your desktop, you'll see the new phone.

In commander, looking at your phone, click "Find", then click "Accurate Location". The bubble at the top of the screen says "Attention word received, Getting location. Please wait up to 5 minutes for a response." After waiting 3 minutes, I got "GPS and Network locations are unavailable. Both failed." I think that's because I was inside. I tried again with the phone outside and it worked. Maybe that's just because wifi was on. Now it's not working at all. It's not even replying with the attention command. Yuck.

To reduce the number of texts used, on the phone, go into the wheres-my-droid app and under the GPS feature uncheck the 3rd and 4th texts (map link and street address)

GPS Not Working

I performed some tests and sent the following request to where's-my-droid support.

Hi.

I'm trying to use wheresmydroid as a tracker for an elderly person with dementia. Full details of my situation are given here:
http://holtstrom.com/michael/blog/post/490/Phones-For-Seniors.html#wheresmydroid

I'm using a "Huawei Ascend Y215"

For the test, the phone is sitting on a stool in my backyard with wifi off and mobile data off.

If I send "WMD GPS" to the "Huawei Ascend Y215" from another phone, the other phone gets an SMS with the attention word immediately, and shortly thereafter receives the GPS data.

If I ask for "accurate location" from your commander, the commander just says command sent. It never even gets the attention word.

If I wait 5 minutes and turn mobile data on, the commander still doesn't get the attention word.

If I wait 5 minutes and turn wifi on, the commander immediately gets the attention word and shortly thereafter receives the GPS data.

Note, I only need to click "accurate location" once in the above commander scenario. The initial failed request eventually succeeds once wifi is turn on.

Question: why does the commander require the phone to have wifi on? Is there a workaround for this?

My goal is to use the phone as a gps tracker in a rural area, so it needs to succeed without wifi. The person doing the tracking won't have a smartphone and thus needs an interface like the commander.

Thanks in advance for your help.

They replied indicating that the commander uses data to talk to the app. Here's their reply.

Commander needs data of some sort to send its commands though. Mobile data should suffice just fine. I read a little about your post and that your using pre-paid phones. Many of those often don't have a data plan. Are you sure you have a data subscription with this pre-paid plan?

That's a problem for my use-case. Here's my reply.

You're right. The pre-paid plan doesn't include data.

Can you confirm that your commander can't be configured to fetch the GPS using exclusively SMS?

I suppose it must be using something like push notifications?

Do you not use SMS because there is a cost associated with sending them?

Do you know of any web based service that will talk to WMD using exclusively SMS? If not, I suppose I could write it myself in the amazon cloud, but I'd prefer to use an existing service.

I'd be happy to pay a reasonable fee.

As far as I can tell the most affordable way to track an elderly person's location is WMD. This is by a huge margin. Existing services run ~$40\month. With WMD and a cheap pre-paid you can do it for just a few dollars a month. But it needs a web based map lookup that only talks to the phone by SMS.

You could charge a recurring fee for this service. As the baby boomers age, demand for this kind of thing will increase.

I hope you build it.

Thanks.

They replied.

We did go this way because of cost. Every text sent does cost about 1 cent per text. It doesn't sound like much with with millions of users world wide that adds up quick. Since the app is only a one-time fee it would lose us money quick.

I am interested in helping you to create this. The only problem is we are very busy here with a new project and have very little time. You talk about writing it yourself, are you a developer as well? If so you might be able to do it yourself and I could provide some help along the way. Have you heard of a service called Twilio? You should check it out https://www.twilio.com. Its what we were going to use.

It looks like I really could write this myself on the amazon cloud. It costs $0.75 per 100 Notification deliveries over SMS.

Here's how I did it: Receive SMS Text Message.