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  • Roger Cheng

The next wearable trend? Personal safety trackers

Chinese phone maker ZTE says it's working with Qualcomm to develop a new category of wearable trackers.

Remember those old "I've fallen and I can't get up" commercials featuring emergency medical alert devices? They may be getting a modern makeover.

ZTE, a Chinese smartphone maker best known for its budget handsets, said at CES 2018 on Tuesday it was partnering with chip giant Qualcomm and personal security software provider Wearsafe on a new category of wearables.

These personal safety trackers represent a more practical side of the ever-growing wearables markets, which includes everything from fitness trackers to smartwatches and smart glasses. This category isn't new -- personal alert trackers and devices have been out for years -- but ZTE is hoping to put a modern spin with a more powerful Qualcomm processor and software smarts from Wearsafe.

"The work between ZTE, Qualcomm Technologies and Wearsafe will create the next generation of personal safety solutions through a small wearable device," said Jeff Yee, vice president of product marketing and strategy for ZTE.

While ZTE's bread and butter continues to be budget phones for the prepaid market, the company has increasingly branched out with unique products. The company offers an Android-powered projector and wireless hot spot, and in October released the dual-screen Axon M, which folded on a hinge. The company also developed a phone based on fan input, a mid-range phone called Hawkeyethat allowed you to navigate without touching the screen.

ZTE will use Qualcomm's Snapdragon Wear 1100 platform as the processor and tap Wearsafe's software, which has a low power mode that lets it run longer and specializes in personal security tracking. Like the devices of old, it is a direct life line to emergency responders. Wearsafe software also stores and records information about the user's situation, including location, how fast someone is traveling and any available audio information to better assist the emergency worker.

ZTE says the Qualcomm and Wearsafe assets allow the company to create a wearable device that is more discrete than past bulkier's gadgets. Qualcomm, meanwhile, appreciates the opportunity to enter a new category.

"We are looking forward to bringing a product to operators in the US and globally over time," said Pankaj Kedia, senior director of product management at Qualcomm Technologies.

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