Nortek Acquires mPERS Maker Numera for Aging-in-Place Solutions
Nortek Security & Control (formerly Linear), the PERS provider featured in Life Alert commercials, has acquired Numera, maker of cellular-enabled health and wellness systems including fall detection and telehealth. Implications for 2Gig home automation?
If you’ve seen the “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” commercials, you’ve seen Nortek Security & Control (Nortek: NTK), maker of 2Gig home automation systems, as well as the personal emergency response system (PERS) featured in the Life Alert ads.
Nortek, already a leading PERS provider, has now improved its position in the category by acquiring the mobile personal emergency response system (mPERS) and telehealth assets from privately held Numera, Inc.
The transaction is valued at $12 million, plus consideration based on future sales, according to an SEC filing. Numera recorded unaudited net sales under $3 million in 2014, its first full year of sales.
Based in Seattle, Numera offers personal safety and wellness solutions that incorporate cellular-based communications. Its flagship mPERS device is the Libris, a small pendant that features hands-free, two-way communication, automated fall detection and location-based services. Numera, which has its roots in remote patient management, acquired the Libris product line from BlueLibris in 2012.
Like traditional PERS systems, the Libris communicates with dedicated call centers that can dispatch advice and/or emergency responders. Unlike traditional systems, Numera’s solution operates outside of the home, and opens up hands-free, two-way communications with the call center in the event of a fall, as detected through the device’s onboard sensors and Numera’s proprietary algorithms.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over one in three seniors fall each year, costing the U.S. healthcare system more than $34 billion annually, with 43% of these falls occurring outside the home. With the population aging, both the number of falls and the costs to treat related injuries are likely to increase.
“What we really focused on was an OnStar-like experience outside of the car, with a more individualized focus,” says Numera CEO Tim Smokoff in an interview with CE Pro. (OnStar itself launched a telehealth system earlier this year.)
But there’s more. A key piece of the acquisition is Numera’s back-end systems, which provide user-friendly monitoring tools for the customer’s caregivers, which might include family members and healthcare providers.
Indeed, when Numera was founded four years ago, the guiding principle was, “How do you get more people involved?” Smokoff says.
Numera offers a secure portal that allows approved caregivers to monitor a customer’s activity … or non-activity, as the case might be. If a user falls asleep on a park bench, for example, family members and healthcare providers will know about it.
But Numera adds another layer of health-and-wellness management with Libris+, providing telehealth services through a number of third-party medical-monitoring devices, such as Abbott glucometers for diabetes care, Omron blood-pressure cuffs and ResMed CPAP machines for respiratory health.
Here again, Numera’s cloud service plays a key role in helping caregivers monitor users’ health and establish objectives for wellness.
The average PERS customer signs up at age 82 and uses the service for about three years. In Numera’s case, the average age of new mPERS subscribers is 71, potentially adding 10 years of recurring revenue
It is the incorporation of these telehealth services that draws customers into the Numera mPERS business earlier than usual, according to Smokoff.
The average PERS customer signs up at age 82 and uses the service for about three years. In Numera’s case, the average age of new mPERS subscribers is 71, potentially adding 10 years of recurring revenue to the providers – both the call center and the dealer that interfaces with the customer.
The typical fee for mPERS is $30 to $50 per month, which includes the cellular service, currently provided through AT&T.
Smokoff says he believes Numera currently is “the only company to integrate personal safety and emergency response with a telehealth platform.”
Numera Synergies with Nortek PERS and Home Automation
Nortek is a worldwide leader in PERS, but its product line has not really evolved with the digital times. Numera quickly updates the Nortek health-and-wellness portfolio with mobile technology and cloud-based service.
But Numera also brings new channels to Nortek’s existing PERS business, namely, telco operators and medical call centers.
Twenty of the top call centers have integrated Numera technology into their ecosystem, according to Smokoff, who adds that some of these providers white-label the devices and services under their own brands for sale to consumers direct or authorized dealers.
Medical Guardian, for example, sells Numera under the Guardian brand – Guardian Classic, Home, Mobile and Premium.
Numera also has relationships with telcos that wrap their own brands around the products and services.
AT&T, Numera’s first big white-label telco customer, launched a service called EverThere in 2013, the early days of Numera. Smokoff says AT&T had planned a huge and costly consumer marketing campaign back then, but after a few weeks the telco pulled back on the advertising budget.
Smokoff explains that AT&T continues to sell EverThere through its health-enterprise business, but not through retail.
More recently, Numera has signed with two major communications companies that will sell its products and services through storefronts, health enterprises and dealer networks, Smokoff says.
Numera slowly is becoming a preferred provider discharge management, according to Smokoff. Under the Affordable Care Act, healthcare providers are incentivized to better manage patient care after hospital admissions to minimize re-admissions.
Both Nortek and Numera are hopeful that Alarm.com and Icontrol will incorporate the new health services into their offerings, via cloud-to-cloud communications.
Smokoff says Numera has “seen a definite uptick” in business lately because a universal focus on after-care for patients, after years of virtually no reimbursement from insurance companies and healthcare providers.
“People are now allocating budgets not just for pilots, but for full-blown commercial programs,” Smokoff says.
These Numera relationships in the healthcare community are all fairly new to Nortek’s PERS business. Nortek (the group formerly known as Linear) has focused primarily on the security channel, which now can deliver next-gen solutions to their customers.
Both Nortek and Numera are hopeful that these platform providers will incorporate the new health services into their offerings, via cloud-to-cloud communications. (Alarm.com already offers an aging-in-place service called BeClose, via a recent acquisition, but all accounts suggest that Alarm.com has not been active in the category.)
Once cloud integration is enabled, it is a short leap to integrating health services with Nortek’s 2Gig and other security and home automation platforms from the likes of Interlogix (UTC), DSC (Tyco), Napco and Qolsys. We could imagine a scenario, for example, in which the automation system unlocks the doors, disarms the security system and turns on the lights upon an emergency medical event.
The mPERS and Telehealth Landscape
Honeywell, already a provider of traditional PERS systems, announced at CES 2015 a new solution called Seymour, to “provide the capability to bring the currently disparate data-centric worlds of both healthcare providers and consumers together – in one platform,” according to a January press release. “Seymour addresses the needs of both consumers and healthcare providers to aggregate and securely exchange meaningful health-related data – from biometric information to data from consumer devices and applications such as fitness activity trackers – and help make it actionable. In addition, it simultaneously provides the platform for healthcare professionals to distribute care plans to consumers
outside the provider setting.”
For its part, ADT began partnering with PERS and health monitoring providers in 2013 to add health-and-wellness solutions to its ADT Pulse security and home automation ecosystem. ADT works with MobileHelp, a direct Numera competitor, as well as Ideal Life for telehealth products.
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Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at email@example.com
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