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Aging in Place is the ability to live in one's own home - wherever that might be - for as long, as confidently and comfortably possible. Livability can be extended through the incorporation of universal design principles, telehealth, mhealth and other assistive technologies.
What makes Voice First special for older adults? This blog has discussed the emergence of Voice First technology -- speech-enabled interactions with technology -- on multiple occasions. But this occasion is different -- it marks the publication of a research effort and resulting report linked here called The Future of Voice First Technology and Older Adults 2018. Today's blog post offers a short excerpt of key differences between Voice First technology and prior tech generations that apply to all users – but are unique for seniors -- future research will continue to explore that uniqueness. So what has inspired multiple organizations, including Benchmark Senior Living and Carlsbad by the Sea, to begin their programs? They see that while Voice First technology is an early market with some (noted) limitations, it also represents, unlike prior technology generations, benefits for users. For users and tech managers, Voice First is:
Easy: Download versions and upgrades are unnecessary. Patch Tuesday for Microsoft users or iOS update reminders are likely not part of the older adult user experience. But the Amazon Echo Show speaks what needs to happen next after the device is powered on, presenting suggestions and tips in large font. A caveat, however – as the Front Porch users discovered, without any prior technology exposure, some training is required, especially to use features to control lights and room temperature.
Cheap: Device price war put offering within reach – but is there Wi-Fi? The Echo Dot and the Google Home Mini are racing for the bottom of Voice First device price ranges. But they work just as well when spoken to as the largest and most expensive variant. However, Wi-Fi connectivity is a prerequisite – and not a given in many senior communities or private homes.
Useful: Content can both surprise and impress. Information behind these devices is a constant surprise and delighter. Jokes and weather, but also: streaming music, audio stories, and news. For the tech-phobic, these interactions represent a disruptive change and an experiential upgrade. Cooking timers, alarms and reminders – “It’s 4:00, Did you take your medication?” are part of the basic features. Note these are not interactions, and other than ‘Stop’, do not yet address what happens if you didn’t comply.
Smart: Last week’s functionality can be forgotten. While not the first cloud-based capability, voice first technologies’ update cycles craft a new user experience. Growing in use, the devices and software increasingly know who you are and can tell you what’s new; remind how functions work; and can be queried and/or trained repeatedly about the same feature – simply by speaking a question. For example, “Alexa, what do you know?” Or “Hey Google, how do I play music?”
Connected: Home automation just works. For the Front Porch participants at Carlsbad by the Sea, the home automation integration was itself a surprising benefit – learning to control the thermostat, connected light bulbs and outdoor camera. The pilot participants marveled that they could turn on lights, change the room temperature and see who was at the door – all without leaving their chairs.
Here is a hope that you will read the research report which was based on 31 interviews with stakeholders and innovators -- and if you can, also come to the What's Next Boomer Summit in San Francisco on March 28th to hear a thought leader panel discussion of the topic and more about what's next with Voice First.
It’s a piloting world for new voice technology in senior living and care. But some senior living and service provider companies are experimenting and using for differentiation. As the Front Porch report and other examples have demonstrated, use of Voice First technologies can engage residents, improve concierge services, reduce unnecessary trips down long hallways for check-ins, enable some home automation actions for turning on lights, managing a thermostat or monitoring entrances.
AARP Foundation and Senior Living.The AARP Foundation recently piloted a program with a senior living facility in the Baltimore area to test whether voice-controlled technologies like the Alexa-powered Amazon Echo can help curb isolation and its associated health effects in seniors. The organization worked with Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc., to place Amazon Echo devices in its senior living communities, teaching them how to communicate voice commands to Alexa for everything from turning the lights on and off, medication reminders, and getting news and weather reports. Learn more at Associated.org.
Amazon could take on Home Care.As Amazon looks to possibly capture some of the market share in the pharmacy space, home care providers are keeping watch on the company for other reasons. Coupled with its home-based voice technology, Amazon’s Echo product could easily be paired with home health and home care services to fulfill a number of responsibilities for seniors needing care. And some home care and home health providers are already actively exploring these options, including California-based Libertana Home Health, which tapped Amazon’s Alexa for a pilot study with some of its clients. Learn more at Libertana Home Health.Bottom of Form
Juniper Saves Money Retains Staff. Products like the Amazon Echo have already made their way into senior living settings, allowing residents to hear the dinner menu or get medication reminders simply by asking for them. But voice recognition also holds promise for making clinicians’ lives easier, while enabling senior living companies to cut costs and improve retention. least, Juniper Communities believes this to be true, based on initial results from a technology pilot with a startup called LexiconAI. Learn more at Juniper Communities.
HoneyCo Smart Home for Seniors.Stringing together an array of smart devices into a home is no easy task for even a moderately tech-savvy individual -- let alone someone enjoying their retirement. HoneyCo, based in Nashville, offers a one-stop shop for the smart home, taking products off the shelf and corralling them into a single, easy-to-use software platform. HoneyCo charges a monthly fee to manage the service. Learn more at HoneyCo Homes.
Social isolation has grown for the older and/or less tech-savvy segments. This has been a result of tech replacements that are more difficult to use, whether it is the cost of Wi-Fi connection, excessive device screen sensitivity, screen size, the continuous need for OS upgrades or software updates, many of them security-related as hacker threats grow. Older adults and those who care about them examine this landscape and wonder what can be done because:
Cost is too high versus the benefit of technology improvement. Most people replace their smartphones after 2-3 years – even though the phone life is more like 4.7 years for smartphones and feature phones. But 24 million clamshell (flip) phones sold in 2016, 2 million more than in 2015 – while seniors make up a big percentage of users, others like, $20 price tag, superior telephone call form factor and the long battery life – in contrast to the $800+ smartphone, need for a headset, and daily, if not more frequent, charging requirement.
Tech-enabled threats drive fear and more updates. Tracking malware has become a business unto itself – one fifth of devices breached and 1.5 million new incidents detected in just one quarter in 2017. In fact, a quarter of those device owners did not even know that their device had been under attack.Often the malware is embedded in ads inside publications older adults trust – an email attachment inadvertently sent by someone they know or in a website they trust.
So what is the solution to help the older population stay better connected?
Tech with applicability in the older adult market. The Digital Health event is also covered in detail through MobiliHealth news and few of those announcements, not even counting the plethora of tech that addresses diabetes and brain health, could specifically benefit older adults. And more expert and more detailed (and analytical writing) about new tech at CES reveals a few more offerings that could be useful for older adults if applied to that market. Here are five – more when there’s more:
Invoxia portable Alexa speaker. "Here’s an example of filling a hole in Amazon’s own product line. It is just a battery powered speaker with embedded Alexa. Triby features voice control with Amazon Alexa and is a smart portable speaker, Internet radio, hands-free speakerphone, and connected message board all rolled into one! Use the Alexa Voice Service to play music, provide information, get the news, set alarms, control smart home devices, and more using just your voice. Just say the wake word "Alexa" and Triby responds instantly." Learn more at CNET.
Lenovo Smart Display. "The Lenovo Smart Device, intended to compete with the Echo Show, the interface design is different to that of a phone, however. Everything is larger, bolder, pared down without the ultra-detail that you'll find from Google Assistant on a phone. This is to keep things simple, to typically keep your hands off the device - although the touchscreen is perfectly usable - and help focus, including playing music, making calls, recognizing different voices." Learn more at Pocket-Lint.
MobileHelp and Samsung GearWatch. "MobileHelp, a maker of home and wearable medical alert devices, also announced a new partnership with Samsung to bring its emergency response capabilities to Gear smartwatches. Called MobileHelp Smart, the devices integrate MobileHelp’s platform into a modified version of Samsung’s watch, taking advantage of its fitness-monitoring features, GPS, and cell capabilities." Learn more at Research Park.
ADT Health. "ADT, Reemo Health and Samsung have teamed together to provide customers with wellness data, connectivity and an ADT professionally-monitored personal emergency response system (PERS) on the stylish Samsung Gear S2 and S3 Gear smartwatches. Gone is the stigma from pendants and wristbands, users can proudly wear their PERS device with confidence, knowing that help is a simple tap away to a live two-way voice assistance with a specially-trained ADT agent directly from the watch’s speaker. Gear S2 or S3 can also track fitness trends, including steps and heart rate, encouraging seniors to stay active. The collaboration allows ADT to provide seniors, their families and caregivers, peace of mind and better visibility to their health, enabling them to actively manage their own wellness, maintain an independent lifestyle and access help anytime, if needed." Learn more at the CES overview from ADT.
Corti. "Corti is an example of how AI can augment, not supplant, human healthcare workers. The AI runs in the background of an emergency dispatch call, analyzing not only the caller's words but also background noises that might include the victim's breathing patterns. It culls that information for indicators that someone is suffering from cardiac arrest, then prompts the dispatcher to ask questions or walk the callers through activities like CPR that could stabilize the patient until the ambulance arrives." Learn more at MobiHealthNews.
How will this gaggle of goods work for older adults – or anyone? One might wonder, as The Verge does – is technology today built on incorrect assumptions about the tech capability of the user? For example, check out the steps to set up the Echo. Sure, it is a useful device for older adults, but that assumes that after plugging it in, the user has access to the app, the Wifi password, and the Amazon account password. That’s for starters. What about accessing services like Internet radio, requesting rides, listening to books, speaking with family or setting reminders?. Read the Front Porch pilot report to see the scope of training needs and opportunity.
As always, CES will have announcements and products that will become popular immediately or hopefully evolve into something useful. Anyway, here are five new technologies from CES 2018 intended for (maybe) or can offer service/support for older adults (all info is drawn from media or sites):
IQBuds. "A set of wireless earbuds ($200) that create a custom listening profile by evaluating the user's hearing. The device uses an app called Ear ID to do just that, calibrating the earbuds automatically to tailor them to each person. Nuheara says the app offers a hearing test you'd usually have to visit an audiologist to get. Of course, that personalization will also help users who can hear just fine but want a more custom sound from their earbuds. The customization extended to the touch controls on the outside of the earbuds as well." Learn more at Nuheara.
Woohoo. "Set for its global release in Q1 2018, WooHoo is positioned as "a tool through which families can care for both elderly parents and children through an interactive and intuitive interface," said SmartBeings co-founder and chief strategy officer Himanshu Kaul. "Through such features as gesture control, motion-and-fall detection, a smart camera with facial recognition, NLP-based voice commands, and audio/video conferencing, every home and office can now connect and control every device through our Artificial Intelligence Platform and mobile app." Learn More at SmartBeings.
Buddy. "Buddy is another robot that's been with us for a couple of years in some form or another, but it's on show at CES 2018 in its latest incarnation. From French robotics firm Blue Frog, Buddy is designed as a robot that can keep up a conversation with anyone in your family, monitor your home, play music and videos, and more besides. Think of it kind of like an Amazon Echo with a face and wheels, though there's no Alexa on board here. It's particularly good for playing with kids or keeping an eye on elderly parents, but like a lot of CES kit, you can't actually buy Buddy right now. Its makers say preorders for the robot assistant will be open again soon." Learn more at BlueFrog Robotics.
Cutii. "Our vocal and facial recognition robot, named Cutii, provides elders with access to a full catalog of activities and services.” Cutii responds to verbal cues to offer users a catalog of services and activities. It can’t assist with day-to-day tasks like cooking and doing the dishes, but can schedule and coordinate enrichment and well-being activities like contacting family members, arranging doctor’s appointments, and signing up for fitness classes. The robot can be controlled manually with a remote or it can be left to navigate autonomously around the home." Learn more at Digital Trends.
EZVIZ. "Home security camera maker EZVIZ announced its first product for smart entry security at CES 2018 today, with the debut of the Lookout Smart Door Viewer. The system is designed to work with the company’s new ezGuard security camera, as well as with other EZVIZ products and Amazon Alexa. What makes the system more interesting than the usual smart entry solution is how it takes advantage of facial recognition. Using the EZVIZ app, homeowners can opt to create a gallery of trusted people who can gain access to the home. It does this by utilizing facial recognition technology to identify the person at the door automatically, allowing the homeowner to act as they see fit to allow entry." Learn more at TechCrunch.
2017 was an interesting year -- 2018 should overcome a few obstacles. Probably the most significant innovation during 2017 was the growth of the Voice First technology market -- but judging by the aisles of gadgets in places like Best Buy, everything else is changing as well. CES is next week, and with it more speakers, TVs, and gadgetry than is seen in Best Buy or anywhere else during the year. But even as technology leapfrogs and crawls forward, obstacles to broad adoption for older adults remain. Hopefully interest in mitigating social isolation among older adults will lead to the role technology could play. But to make a real difference, here's a look at five areas for improvement in 2018:
Car user interfaces – baffling or ignored. Like much of the technology we encounter, car user interfaces have evolved because it was possible to add features to them. Were these requested – or invented because they were possible and turn out to be a distraction? (Hint: it’s been a bad case of the latter.) So what to do if baffled by the latest and greatest? Be one of those who keeps the car the longest: “Vehicles 16 years and older are expected to grow 30 percent from 62 million units today to 81 million in 2021.” And the people driving? Consumer reports notes that they might behind the wheel substantially longer than their ability to drive. Considering feature creep and advancing age of the oldest drivers, this conundrum will worsen in 2018.
Home automation -- is it useful for older adults? In conjunction with Voice First technology, there are unforeseen benefits -- as outlined in a recent report from Front Porch -- which could be deployed in other senior living communities as well as private homes. It may be that other smart home trends that surface next week at CES could be applied in senior settings. And it could also be that 2018 is the year of smart(er) appliances, robots and even wearables -- which join the trend of Voice First in the home.
It was the one of the worst and yet the best of times for innovation and older adults. It was a year, early on, in which tech-enabled home care appeared to resonate with investors. But traditional home care companies stuck to their knitting, watching the Home Hero shutdown in the midst of an ever-more-startling shortage of prospective workers. It was the oddest of times, with the $80 billion hype of self-driving cars partly focused on the transit needs of older adults. And it was the best of times – as 2017 was the year of Voice First technology lift-off – as Amazon’s Echo forced the hand of Google’s Home. Ultimately seniors will benefit from technology that fits both their interest and needs -- see the Market Overview update from early in the year. Here are the top blog posts from 2017:
Considering the future of Voice First and Older Adults. The rapid growth of the market for voice-enabled technologies, sparked by the popularity of the Amazon Echo, has the potential to be as disruptive a technology change as any that preceded it. Some are describing this new trend for devices and software is known as Voice-First, that is, the primary interface to the technology is spoken. These offerings are found within hardware, some of which is designed to include Smart Home features. Examples include the ‘smart speaker’ Amazon Echo product line, Google Home, and in 2018, Apple HomePod. And Voice-First is built into software such as new smart, personal, digital, and virtual assistants.
As August winds down, Aging 2.0 startups wind up. For some, maybe they still think that summer is winding down and all is quiet in business and beyond. But no -- back to school, back to work, and back to starting companies. Aging 2.0 finalists have been announced, conference media organizations are ramping up, and a few leaves begin to turn – fall is in clearly the air and around the corner. Before August disappears altogether and the media engines shift into gear, here are five announcements of new technologies designed to help older adults and/or their caregivers.
Beyond PERS – wearable tech and older adults.PERS is the most recognized wearable for older adults -- but what's next? Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) -- a long-standing $3+ billion market (30+ years!) that has evolved only slightly from its fear-inspiring origins. The 'I’ve Fallen' message is still 'inspiring' families and seniors to acquire one. But 30% of the market’s sales are for mobile devices. This makes sense in this time of substantial life expectancy at age 65, that 46% of women aged 75+ live alone; and now we can add older adults’ newly-discovered extended middle age. Mobility demands mobile devices which in turn boost confidence to be out-and-about. Consider walking the dog -- since one third of the 65+ population has one.
Imagine all the non-digital photos and memorabilia. Forget Airbnb and driving for Uber. Boomers with creativity, organizational skill and some technology can follow multiple small business paths that have large emotional implications for the customer. Consider the large and small albums of photos, cassette tapes, home movies – not just from the boomers aged 51-71, but from their parents, and even some from their parents’ parents. Will anyone want it? Cynics contend that not only will the old content be lost due to disinterest, but that current content (selfies, group photos, Facebook and Instagram shots of that great dinner) will also be lost, some say, to collective disinterest – the photo only mattering in the moment.
The evolution of telehealth at ATA. In 2017, has telehealth and remotely-delivered care evolved? Compared to our published research dated 2011, times may have changed. As surveys have indicated, the healthcare industry is interested and more committed to mainstream use of telehealth technologies. And telehealth vendors want to help doctors and patients gain mutual benefit of care provided at home versus hospital, especially to lower care delivery costs; augment care for patients in locations far from a specialist or during off-hours; and continue growing the ability of patients and families to self-monitor chronic disease industry commitment.
AARP’s Live Pitch for the 50+. This marathon tried to put 20 pounds of entrants (culled from many more) into the 10-pound bag of a two-day pitch event across two broad categories. So following this trend towards compression, we will leave FinTech to others and just focus on the Caregiving Health Technology firms. While the pitch may be new, some, as noted, may not be new. Placed in context by taking note of what’s in (or was in) market and similar to these finalists.
Smartphones and older adults – good news? On the positive side, smartphone ownership for older adults is up.You have seen older people with their smartphones – they’re in concert halls and restaurants staring at their screens, fascinated -- scrolling through emails, studying photos, watching videos, seated next to other 80-somethings, who might be envious, texting on their very, uh, compact feature phones. Says Pew Research of their 2016 survey data: 42% of the 65+ population have smartphones. Not surprisingly, only 7% of that population fit the Pew definition of smartphone dependent -- that is 'reliant on their smartphone for Internet access.'
Why is ‘boon for the elderly’ generally included as a rationale? First, 70% of older adults live in car-dependent suburbs, and of course, ask AARP, 90% expect to age in place. So seniors are among other much-lobbied reasons to create the 2017 Self-Drive Act, a federal effort to reduce the regulatory burden on getting 80,000 self-driving cars into the market, and to discourage states from crafting individual legislation, one state at a time. Never mind that only 6 percent of cities have any policy or strategy about self-driving cars -- it’s full spending steam ahead. Waymo (formerly Google’s Self-driving project) has even issued a report to explain self-driving safety, benefit to the elderly and disabled, and to justify its own investment and expected growth.
Consider the white paper -- more content than a tweet or blog post. White papers have long been viewed as content marketing vehicles, intended to showcase a product or concept relevant to the firm’s customers and prospects. According to Jonathan Kantor, a 15-year white paper marketing veteran, "white papers can be used to generate sales leads, establish thought leadership, make a business case, or inform and persuade." Experts note that even in the age of Twitter and social media, white papers still matter; they can be fulfilled from website registrations, tweeted, or emailed to prospects. They can also take up long-term residence on a a firm's website. White papers may offer content that educates (not sells), expanding on an idea or a point of view as well as a product or service. Here are summaries of five researched white papers that were published in 2017, with the newest first, plus links back to the sponsoring company:
CDW: The Amazon Effect on Products and Services in Senior Living, December, 2017. "Senior living finds itself in a challenging position in 2018 due to delayed retirements of prospective residents, lower occupancy rates and a sustained worker shortage. However, organizations can use 2018 to ramp up their service offerings to market themselves ahead of the competition by disrupting the old way of doing business and examining how the Amazon-style approach can enhance organizational thinking for owners and operators." (CDW Healthcare)
iN2L: Bringing Technology-enabled Personalization into Focus, October, 2017. "Following their success with the group setting use of iN2L, the company has recently launched a tablet-based version with content for personalized use and a user experience specially designed for use in a resident’s room, or for use in home settings, or in 1-1 interaction for care providers and individuals – for example, in independent living, home health care or home care." (iN2L)
GreatCall: Connecting the Lonely, July, 2017. "The whitepaper identifies health risks associated with loneliness and social isolation, including depression and decline in cognitive abilities. Research shows that lacking social interaction can be just as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. The report also offers solutions to mitigate these risks though technology and community efforts." (GreatCall)
Vaporstream: Creating a Circle of Caring Text, May, 2017. "In today’s digital age, patients and their families want to have greater engagement with their care providers in a way that better closes the communication gap. When individuals are dealing with health care needs that are communicated through various channels, there are often large gaps between healthcare professionals, patients and their families. A gap in communication can not only harm the health and care services of the patient, but can also result in stress and frustration for their family and care providers." (Vaporstream)
Livpact: Powering Care Families With Livpact's Care Engagement Platform, March, 2017. "The Care Engagement Platform is a structured system that is designed to help keep the Care Family, that is the care recipients, care providers, and care professionals informed and actively engaged in the care process. It is used by the Care Family to actively coordinate care, stay informed of the complete health status of the care receiver and to activate the roles of patients and families." (Livpact)
When is a house not a home – when it is taken over by remote devices. Okay, maybe we don’t live in a building with a doorman to store packages; we don’t have a locked mailroom and no space for an outdoor locked box on the porch. And we don’t have a barking dog – and we live in the suburbs. So given all that, some trusting people may sign up for Amazon Key, where a background checked delivery person has the ability to unlock the door and put the package inside. Not a chance. Read the Post article (for multiple issues) and note if there is damage to your property, you can’t even sue them. Note that consumers have been surveyed again and again – they don’t want their home to become too smart. Carefully consider the reasons not to sign up – and don’t.
Never say 'Find me an XYZ' product. So you know that before home delivery (in whatever form), Amazon is all about shopping. By whatever method you want, in store, by drone, delivered with a key, at home. Maybe you have stood near or own an Amazon Echo. And you know that in addition to its charm at playing music and setting timers and turning the lights on or off, it is a shopping device that wants to get to know you and enable you to find and buy – even when the command is coming from a TV show. One day you ask it a question about a device with the phrase, ‘Find me a ‘Your-product-here’ (and it can be bought from your account and shipped). Would you like to buy it? Say no, and don’t mumble.