The Apple Watch hard fall detection feature just saved a man's life

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When the Apple Watch Series 4 was unveiled, it showcased a couple of new health-related features. What immediately caught the public’s attention was the inclusion of an electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor. Another new function that was briefly illustrated was hard fall detection. At first, the latter does not appear that impressive until a recent biking accident saw it in action after it saved a man’s life.

The incident apparently happened when Bob Burdett was enjoying a leisurely ride on his bike. Reports claim that he wound up unconscious after hitting his head hard when his bike flipped over. What followed next was the wearable’s sensors kicking into action. After a series of prompts with no reply from the user, the device automatically calls 911.

Furthermore, details of his location made it possible to quickly locate Burdett. The Apple Watch likewise sent a notification to his son, who immediately made his way to the accident site. To the latter’s surprise, the emergency team arrived earlier and already took his father to Sacred Heart Medical Center as reported by Cult of Mac. This is a perfect example where the hard fall detection system saved a man’s life.

Originally marketed as a feature to help out the elderly, the Bob Burdett incident shows that it is effective for various situations as well. The Twitter post about the incident has gone viral and is working as great publicity for the Apple Watch.

Sensors on the smartwatch are always on the watch for any sudden motion that matches a fall. After detection, users will be prompted to confirm if they are conscious.

Additionally, the device vibrates and emits an alarm tone to hopefully draw attention. If there’s no response, it will immediately contact emergency services and share your details. Emergency contacts are listed on the Medical ID section of the Health app.

Owners of Apple Watch Series 3 and older need to upgrade to the newer models to activate this feature. Users are encouraged to enable fall detection just to be on the safe side. For comparison, most smartwatches in the market right now can only monitor your heart rate, oxygen levels and sleep.


Jeff Williams, Chief Operating Officer of Apple, speaks about the new Apple Watch Series 4 at an Apple Inc product launch event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, U.S., September 12, 2018.
Stephen Lam