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Product review: EIO Emergency Smartcard

Product review: EIO Emergency Standard

By Kathy Lawrence

In Case of Emergency (ICE) cards are a great idea, but the older we get the more information we need to share. A piece of card tucked into a wallet or purse may not fit the bill any longer. EIO Technologies has produced a plastic smart card that could be the answer.

Do you ever get calls from A&E asking for a relative’s history because they’re too confused or unwell to give the answers themselves? Do you worry about a relative getting lost or having a fall and no one knowing who to call?

Making sure they carry a card with emergency details can make all the difference, there’s only so much information you can write on a card. In an emergency it would be good for those who need to know to have instant access to information about medical conditions, medications, hospital history and living arrangements, as well as emergency contacts.

This smart card from EIO Technologies could provide that service - if it becomes widely recognised and used.

The EIO card is a credit card-sized card with an NFC chip that allows the holder to store vital medical information and contact details on the company’s secure website. That data is accessible to first responders – first aiders or emergency crews – or anyone who needs to know simply by scanning it with an NFC-enabled smartphone. NFC is a fairly new technology that enables two devices – in this case the card and the phone – to pass information between them simply by holding them near each other. It’s how services like Apple Pay and Google Wallet work.

We tried out the card for usability and usefulness and were pretty impressed. There’s room for improvement but the company is working on answering many of the issues we raised.

What information can you store?

The first thing to do is register the card on the EIO site using a PC or any other browser-enabled device. There were a few hiccoughs in how the site worked when we tried it but EIO is making improvements all the time.

Once you’re into the site it’s very easy to enter and edit data:

  • Owner: first and last name
  • Date of Birth
  • NHS number and GP details
  • Emergency contacts: With name, relationship and phone number
  • Medical conditions: A very useful space to include any information that is relevant
  • Diabetes: Insulin section for diabetes including annual review
  • Allergies: One that often seems to be left off hospital notes and very useful to include
  • Prescriptions: Plenty of room to take account of older people’s multiple medications, together with information about item, strength, dosage and starting dates
  • GP details
  • Other: Anything else that’s relevant – including information about any pets or other dependents
  • Potential to add a photo

EIO continues to listen to feedback and implement improvements.

On the security front the site is password-protected and the company says the data is stored using 2048 bit encryption in one of Europe's largest data centres. It’s worth being aware though that in the wrong hands the card could fairly easily surrender personal information such as phone numbers that could be passed on to the wrong sort of contacts.

Who can read the card?

The card is only going to work if first responders know how to access the data and are actually able to use their smartphones to do so.

EIO tell us that while new smartphones have the capability to read NFC chips, older phones may not, so for now the company has included a QR code as a backup in such cases. That means that at least for now there will be quite a few phones that don’t connect. Out of four that we tried, none could read the NFC code. Only one phone had a QR reader installed, and that struggled because the mobile reception at that location wasn’t strong. So it wasn’t a roaring success immediately but we do expect this to change as people upgrade their phones over time.

As far as the emergency services are concerned, they’re only going to look for the information if they know about the cards. EIO Technologies says it has been contacting ambulance trusts across the UK and asking them to share information about the cards with their teams. Again in time this may become a standard part of the service.

Price

The card is very affordable at £4.99 and there’s no subscription fee. You can order through the website at www.eiocard.com

Conclusion

It’s early days for this young company and the EIO card was only launched at the beginning of 2016. It’s already gaining a lot of attention though and some very positive feedback.

There’s still work to be done but in principle it is a brilliant idea. And it’s certainly a step up from trying to provide all the information that can be valuable in an emergency on a piece of paper. We’d recommend carrying the card because it can hold more information, but until the technology is more widely usable and recognised we’d also suggest continuing to carry written details with key information on it.

This review was written in March 2016.

You can find a template for a paper-based ICE card in our free stuff.

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