Being a biker, devices that can make my life safer are of great interest to me.
The first ‘safety’ device that I had is my Apple Watch (1st Generation). This is a device that I have grown very attached to, and it has a great little safety feature – If you hold down button for more than 7 seconds it will automatically send out a SOS message to your pre-programmed emergency contacts. I’m a big fan of this feature, but unfortunately it doesn’t work for me when I’m on the motorcycle. The reason is because of the gloves that I wear tend to press against the side of the watch, meaning that I can be happily riding along with not a care in the world, while everyone i care about is in a panic haven just received a message saying that I’m in trouble and need help. I think at one point I might even have placed an accidental call to 999…. So I’ve stopped wearing my Apple Watch when on the bike, but that means I’m one safety device down. Until one week in March where an advert popped up on Facebook showing me an IndieGoGo campaign for a little key ring like item with a button, which allowed me to communicate my status to my loved ones. The Revolar Instinct.
What is Revolar
Revolar was not a product I had heard of before I ran into it in early 2017 on Facebook. Put simply, it is a little Bluetooth button that connects to your phone to send either a:
- Check-in: For when you want to let people know you’re okay, you made it there safe, or where you are.
- Yellow Alert: To let people know something is wrong, you’re in a predicament, or that you just need someone to give you a call.
- Red Alert: To let people know something is seriously wrong, you need immediate assistance or help
These notifications are sent to up to five pre-programmed contacts. These contacts get the notification and can view your location and take the appropriate action based on the sort of notification you’ve sent them.
Once the notification is received and viewed, your Revolar will vibrate to let you know. Pretty simple right?
Best of all, there is no monthly subscription fees or additional costs once you’ve purchased Revolar. Just the initial cost of the device.
How the Revolar Instinct works
The Revolar Instinct is, simply put, a Bluetooth Button which connects to your iPhone or Android phone running the Revolar app. When the button is pressed the app will send a pre-determined message based on the number of presses to the Revolar.
- 1 (long) press – Check-in: This will send a message letting people know you’re okay, and your GPS position at the time the check-in was sent.
- 2 presses – Yellow Alert: This will send a message letting people know something is wrong. Your GPS location will also be sent and updated in real-time. Contacts can track you for the duration of the alert. It can be cancelled by entering your PIN code into the app.
- 3 presses – Red Alert: This will send a message letting people know something is very wrong. Your GPS location will also be sent and updated in real-time. Contacts can track you for the duration of the alert. It can be cancelled by entering your PIN Code into the app.
These alerts are sent to contacts which you specify when you first set up the Revolar, and they are stored on the app. When you set up a Revolar contact, you must enter their mobile phone number and email address. The contact is sent a message to be your Revolar contact. They have to accept this before they will receive any alerts. You can specify which alerts which contacts receive. For example, you may set it so only your close family get all your alerts, but your close friends get just your red alerts. You are allowed up to five contacts.
The three notifications that Revolar can send can be programmed with custom text to suit your individual needs. A link is always sent along with any text you program which takes your contact to a page where they can track you on Google Maps.
Part of what makes this system work is communication. Your contacts need to understand what a Revolar is and what the three different sorts of notifications are for. They (and you) need to understand that a Red Alert means SERIOUS trouble, meaning that you need the emergency services to come to your aid. Of course this is an extreme example, but in my specific use-case, this is exactly what it would mean should any of my loved ones ever receive a Red Alert. What you’ve got to remember though is that if you keep sending red alerts and there’s nothing wrong, then your contacts will never action them properly. Basically; don’t cry wolf!
So now we’ve looked at how Revolar works, we should look at why you would want one. Can’t you simply send the alert yourself, or just call 999/911? Revolar is designed for those times where you can’t get to your phone. I purchased my Revolar Instinct so I could use it when I’m out on the motorcycle. If I have an accident and the phone is attached to the bike or in a bag on the bike, then it will become separated from me. I still need to be able to request help.
Revolar devices also provide this sort of capability around the home. For instance, for someone who slips in the shower. You probably wouldn’t have your phone with you as they’re not generally waterproof (although that is becoming less of a problem today) but you could have hung your Revolar somewhere that you could get to it.
How I’m using the Revolar
I backed the Revolar Instinct through their IndieGoGo campaign, putting up the money for two Revolar Instincts. One for me, and one for Mum.
First let’s look at the one I purchased for Mum. As she is home alone a lot of the time. An incident could occur that something goes wrong and she is unable to get to her phone. The Revolar provides that extra little safety net that allows her to simply press a button and know that help is on the way.
So there’s two things you need to know about me to understand my usecase. The first, is that I ride motorcycles. The second, is that I am an Apple Watch wearer/user.
The Apple Watch does have a very good SOS mode built into it. To activate, one only has to keep the button held down for 10-seconds and the SOS mode will activate. This will automatically alert your pre-defined contacts to your SOS and send them your location (very similar to what Revolar does). I have recently discovered that I need to stop wearing this while on the motorcycle. My motorcycle gloves tend to end up pressing against the buttons on the watch, sometimes causing the SOS mode to activate without me knowing.
To stop my family and friends from thinking I’ve had an almighty crash and could be laying on the roadside in a pool of my own bodily fluids, I got to the point I stopped wearing my Apple Watch while on the bike. Unfortunately this disconnected me from the best SOS device that I had.
When I ride I often have the phone on a handlebar mount, or in a bag somewhere on the bike. If I have a crash then the phone will become separated from me. Even if it is in my pocket while riding, any crash has the chance of emptying my pockets, or destroying the screen of my iPhone.
The Revolar gives me a device that is attached securely to me and is another method of calling for help in case something goes wrong. It is no magic bullet, as it could equally be destroyed or damaged beyond use in any crash, but it certainly gives me that added peace of mind. It also lets my family and friends know I’m safe by being able to send check-ins to them when I arrive at a destination.
What the Revolar does well
The Revolar is a very interesting device. In some ways it doesn’t fit into the current world of ‘always on, always connected’, because that is exactly what it isnt. It isnt always connected, and it isn’t always on. What it is, is ‘Always Available’, or ‘On Demand’.
What I mean is this. Services like Apple’s Find my Friends app or similar services give you the option of sharing your location, real time (or near to it) with your contacts. It is an always on service, and you can’t just turn it on and off as easily as all that. Yes you can go into the app and enable/disable it, but how many people want to think about turning it on and off.
Revolar works with the other approach. By default, the Revolar service is not tracking you. When you decide to turn it on, the service becomes live and starts tracking you (in the case of Yellow/Red alerts), or just sends a static snapshot of your location/status (Check-in). This is a very different approach in a world where sacrifice of privacy has almost become common-place. Seriously though, do you know which apps you have that are location aware and/or tracking you?
Revolar does have some limitations. You do need an iOS or Android smartphone with a data plan. Bluetooth must be enabled, and you must be within Bluetooth range of your phone for your Revolar to work, and the phone must be in range of either WiFi or cellular (with data).
After some testing, the Revolar app doesn’t need to be running for the button press to work. This holds true for iOS and Android.
Another limitation of Revolar is that it doesn’t (yet) have the global impact to be a universally recognised device. If I had a bike accident and was unconscious, would someone who found me know to trigger the Revolar’s alert feature. Would they even know how to, or what the device even is? While Revolar is a great personal safety device, it will continue to remain personal until it is more globally recognised.
Two Months on
I’ve now been using my Revolar Instinct for two months, and it has become almost permanently attached to me. Like my Apple Watch, iPhone, Wallet and keys, it has become one of those things that I will actively go back into the house for if I have forgotten it (not that I very often do as its attached to my belt loop).
My use of it has been exclusively as a Check-in device, and mostly centered around checking in when at my destination when on the bike.
Being on the receiving end of my mother’s check-in’s has been good for a little peace of mind, and she seems to have adapted well to taking it around everywhere with her, just in case.
Overall I have been very happy with the Revolar Instinct. I would definitely recommend it!
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The Revolar Instinct was a personal purchase from the IndieGoGo Campaign page, and not supplied as a review sample.
Supplier: Revolar via IndieGoGo
Campaign contribution date: April 16th 2017
Arrival Date: May 5th 2017
Price as purchased:
- Device: $60
- Engraving + early shipping: $10
- UK Import Duty: £7 + £3 handling