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Giving People a Hotline to Help

Originally from the small mining town of Fochville, Anton and his family moved from Cape Town to Mbombela two and a half years ago. Although his business partner and MyLifeline CEO, Herman, is based in Worcester, the idea for their start-up was written and created right here in the Lowveld.

Anton studied at the Tshwane University of Technology and graduated in 1997.
“It’s really funny, because people didn’t even know what information technology was back then,” he laughs.

MyLifeline offers wearable safety devices which transform the traditional panic button as we know it. “We basically have two devices, a watch and what we call a pendant. The pendant can be worn around your neck or on your belt and it is more waterproof than the watch,” Anton explains while lifting up his wrist, sporting the black timepiece.

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“They both have a single function – they have a button on them that you can press; it makes a beep sound and within about a minute the control room will phone you on the device,” Anton adds. The panic button, which has a battery life of up to three days, works independently from a cellphone and wherever a cellular connection is available.

“The control room will receive a notification on their dashboard, know exactly where you are and they will receive all your medical information and emergency contacts,” he elaborates.

Your five emergency contacts will also receive an SMS with your GPS location. The control room will call the device to establish the nature of the panic. If nobody answers, MyLifeline will proceed to connect with the emergency contacts and services.

The idea for MyLifeLine came from Herman, who runs a security company in Worcester – the location of their main control rooms. “Herman’s cat was missing and he was unbelievably sad about the situation,” Anton says compassionately. “He spoke to people in hardware- and GPS-related fields and they said he might be able to find something that you could attach to your animal to help track them.” The idea started to roll from there; Herman was looking for someone to create the technology and Anton came on board.

“Initially we provided the first portable panic button in South Africa, but since we have launched people have jumped on the idea,” Anton admits earnestly. There are a few companies doing similar products, but Anton says they are not the same as theirs. “Ours is waterproof, it has better battery life and we made sure that our device is ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) certified.”

He also says there are similar apps on the market, but they don’t work as efficiently. “If you are in a panic, you are not going to have the time to open your phone, find your app and do whatever else you need to do to eventually send a message.”

“What gives us the edge is that we are the only software or technology provider that allows any control room in South Africa to plug in with us for free – they can adopt the technology and give better support,” Anton explains. With their control rooms situated in Worcester, they can phone and dispatch emergency services, but they believe it would be ideal for local security companies to get involved – “they will be able to send their emergency personnel much quicker.”

Other interesting features are the anti-removal notification for when the watch is removed from your wrist, as well as the geographic fencing option. “We can place Alzheimer’s and dementia patients in what is called a geofence. We draw a 50-metre radius around your GPS point and if you move out of that area, an alarm is triggered to inform us,” Anton elaborates, but he reassures customers that they don’t have the ability to “Big Brother” them. “We have very strict POPI (Protection of Personal Information) Act and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) protocols in our system; we only access that information in a panic situation,” he adds.

In the following year they are also looking at technology which will notify MyLifeline when there is a fall action – a sudden abrupt movement like tumbling off your mountain bike. “If you are unconscious, there isn’t anything yet which will pick that up, but we are trying to reinvent ourselves. There are technologies that can track your heart rate and there will be algorithms that we could apply to that,” Anton shares enthusiastically.

Their biggest market at the moment is older clients and large companies which want to secure their staff. “Both of the devices are mini cellphones – you can receive calls directly on them – so the watch isn’t the prettiest thing in the world. That is one complaint that we get from older women, who are our biggest market,” Anton concedes. “They often need to make the choice of whether they want to be safe or look stylish,” he laughs.

When they entered the Santam Safety Ideas programme, they already had customers and a working product. “We only really started selling in September last year, but we are making huge progress – we have a 30% growth rate per month,” he exclaims. The programme offered them massive exposure to investors and a broad market. “Santam took us through a six-month period of ramping up your business skills. They taught us about finances, corporate governance and marketing – everything that is required to start a business.”

MyLifeline competed against astounding ideas and technologies, like medical responder apps and safety solutions for solar theft. “I know it sounds like a cliché, but I am sad that everyone can’t win; many people had great ideas and they all need a boost,” Anton shares.
They are also interested in developing small businesses in the future. “We are passionate about start-ups and if we are ever in a position to do the same as Santam, we would love to help other businesses get off the ground,” he smiles. “There are only that many jobs available. The only way we can kill the unemployment in South Africa is with entrepreneurship.”


Anton Swanevelder on 082-777-4388

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