GE buying Living Independently Group doesn't matter. While a bit of noise is being made, this has no significance in the near term and I suspect little money was spent on this compared to the sizable sum that must have been spent to market LIG's offering since its launch in 2003, first unsuccessfully to consumers, then to senior housing organizations after that failed. And while QuietCare is certainly used in some independent living facilities, there are a number of issues associated with it and in general with the category, which is a very early market, requiring much improvement that perhaps GE will eventually fund as part of their 'health care' focus:
- No over-time pattern analysis. First of all, unless there is pattern analysis reporting about behavioral change compared to baseline, which to my knowledge QuietCare doesn't have, the product is little more than an alert mechanism on motion or absence of motion in a room. That puts it into the same questionable category as traditional PERS devices like Lifeline, for example. It must be tuned for false positives that arise for various reasons (vacation? a cat? what about roommates moving around?). It provides a false sense of reassurance, when a frail elderly person can still slide out of a wheelchair or bed onto the floor in the middle of the night -- then QuietCare (or Lifeline if it's not worn or worn but not activated) are both useless.
- Start with an alarm system. It's great that QuietCare can alert for environmental factors like extreme temperature changes, but an alarm system may be far more useful -- and can even respond to break-ins, making it the most fundamental of technologies for seniors living alone. Without a configurable baseline of patterns to monitor and interpretation and analysis of deviation from those patterns, seniors would be better off with an alarm system.
- Communication trumps monitoring. QuietCare is not integrated with any communications technology to help a frail senior, for whom it is intended, to connect with family members -- other than for risk avoidance/alerts. Perhaps even a television with the near-defunct WebTV -- would be better than nothing for a senior to communicate with family members (something QuietCare competitors GrandCare and Healthsense provide) as well as offering monitoring for absence or presence of motion.
- Combine with wearable -- now you have something. Far more interesting would be a combination of wearable fall detection with environmental sensing and communication devices and/or cameras-- monitoring a person (fall detection like Halo Monitoring with changes in body temperature that can be affected by fear or fever) and then monitoring the environment, like HealthSense, QuietCare, WellAWARE or GrandCare Systems.
- Maybe someday be able to go for a walk or a ride. Even more interesting will be the eventual usefulness of wearable tracking capabilities that remember the baseline patterns and follow an individual more than the traditional Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) 500 feet away from the house -- like GPS cell phones.
And there is no point in dwelling on the fact that senior housing organizations, not known for being technology early adopters, still represent a small percentage of seniors (3 million units in total compared to 39 million over the age of 65).
Until Remote Monitoring 2.0 emerges (I am not holding my breath) which combines wearable, mobile and environmental monitoring solutions that really improve safety and well-being, GE has done little more than end a long, slow ride for Living Independently Group.