Support for and lessons learned from 3M and HomeFree

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Jim Gleason
Jim Gleason
For those of you that keep up on what's going on in the industry, you probably know that 3M announced that they were exiting the market around 18 months ago. We've stepped in to help customers.

The back story is that the technology for HomeFree Systems was originally developed in Israel. It provided pendants, pull cords and door systems complete with “watches” instead of the usual “tag” for residents. The watch worked and was fully supervised. It could also be used for on-demand resident tracking. It had some bugs, just like every other system, but the company worked hard to improve.

When 3M purchased the company, those that owned the system or were involved with HomeFree thought that this would be great! There was new capital to take the system to the next level and fix some of the bugs. With hindsight, we learned a lesson related to proprietary software. HomeFree developed the hardware and software and are the only ones that can manufacture it, which became a problem when the company closed that division. This is a lesson I share because providers should know that no matter how big a company is, one runs a risk if a company shuts down.

Vendors told many providers that when 3M exited the market that they had to rip it out and buy a whole new system. The truth is the system can be supported and slowly replaced over many years. 3M has referred existing customers for support and needed parts/supplies to JNL TECHNOLOGIES INC. JNL worked with the system for a number of years and purchased all remaining 3M inventory at the end of 2013. We also expanded 24/7 support capability to ensure ongoing support for the system. For a longer-term solution, we have partnered with Status Solutions, the makers of SARA, to provide an interface allowing customers to continue to use the majority of the 3M hardware. With this approach, upfront costs are greatly reduced.

How does it work? At a high level, JNL provides an interface box that replaces the 3M server and is connected to the SARA system. A new wireless infrastructure is installed for SARA. You continue to use the old 3M devices until they fail. When they do fail, you replace them, one device at a time with a SARA device. This means you have a system that can use both 3M and SARA devices. 

Another benefit is that the interface is quick to complete and limited staff training is needed. So it is relatively painless for staff and residents. Your staff will not know if an alert is from the 3M hardware or a new SARA device. The best part is, most of the SARA devices are Inovonics-based devices, the same devices that about 75% of the manufacturers use, so your on-going investment is protected.

My hope is that those who have 3M know that support and help exists. You don't have to start from scratch.

Jim Gleason is the president of JNL Technologies Inc.

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