Technology for seniors -- why not an iWatch?

I, for one, am tiring of the Apple iWatch.  And it is not even out yet. A Morgan Stanley analyst predicts that the $300 iWatch will sell between 30 and 60 million units, but wisely, like the 50-50 chance of rain, also notes 'there is a chance that the iWatch will fail.' Apple is bringing in multiple athletes to test the thing, including an unnamed player from the Red Sox (unnamed is probably for the best, these days.) So who will buy a $300 smart watch, will they leave their iPhone and their iPad home? What will they use to take a picture? Hopefully it will be of good quality and look less awkward than photographers holding up iPads to point and shoot. Though will we hold our wrist up before our eyes and look like we are blocking the sun? Out from our arm and look like we are signaling a left turn?

Too many gadgets to keep charged?  Presumably Android wear is going to destroy the sale of Android smart phones -- but how can you say "Hi Google?" with your wrist down by your side? What if there is are many people around you all talking to their Google Glasses, their Gear Watch, their Galaxy smartphones that they refuse to ditch and are struggling to keep all those plus their smart watches charged so that they can board a US-bound flight from Europe? (The airport gates are becoming amusing and antisocial charge-a-thons -- even without the TSA mandate.) Or will all of this stuff be relegated to the obsolete gadget recycle bin?  

Which brings me to the senior housing technology pilot.  As reported in Aging 2.0, Front Porch is conducting a pilot of Paro (the $6000 seal robot announced at CES in 2009 and discussed frequently) in a memory care facility in Cupertino.  Is Paro a good thing for seniors in memory care?  Sure, but will Paro in Cupertino make it past the pilot stage? Maybe.  In fact, Paro deployment raises the thorny issue of management of technologies deployed in senior care communities. Whose job will it be to oversee the use of Paro? The activities staffer?  The nurse? A volunteer?  How will Paro stay clean enough for multiple folks to use -- after the ice cream cone snack in the afternoon?  Robots in memory care -- engaging residents with dementia -- encouraging non-verbal residents to speak.  It sounds great -- but what is the step-by-step path to moving these devices from pilot to production?  Whose job-responsibility is it to nurture and complete deployments ? From one-off funding of experiments to mandated technology in certain categories of care?  We have just entered the age where senior housing communities built in the 1960s are now investing in wireless networks.

Back to the iWatch -- make it useful, why not the PERS of the future?  Of course, Apple is not leading the rumor mongering with any announcements about older adults and iWatches. But study this Swiss watch/PERS from Limmex and wonder -- presumably Apple and Samsung folk have read about it.  They know about the $1.5 billion PERS market, not to mention the $1.5 billion wearable device market (quotes AT&T and LG).  The PERS vendors have been steadfast in their reluctance to innovate on the base service for 82-year-old women living alone.  Given the growth in smartphone use (half of baby boomers have them), the growth in size of smartphones, maybe past usability, the growth in the tablet market (and corresponding drop in price), maybe a health-oriented watch (to complement the Healthbook) could shake things up a bit, provide a new growth area for resellers of PERS devices.

PERS watches

When I got into the PERS business in 2007 I thought the Timex watches that doubled as PERS pendants were a no brainer. They looked pretty good, came in mens and womens sizes, and they would remove the stigma of having a PERS device. I was wrong. Lifeline tried it, VRI tried it, Bosch tried it and I know a number of our D2C partners tried it. Fail. Most women of "PERS age" don't want people messing with their accessories (i.e. watches). They would prefer something they could wear around their neck and hide under their blouse. So i disagree with Laurie: PERS vendors have not been steadfast in our reluctance to innovate. Our customers have been steadfast in their reluctance to purchase. This will change as more boomers (who accept/want more tech in their lives) hit "PERS age" and as PERS gets integrated into other technologies.

The lens of 'our customers'

I am still hearing about new companies who offer PERS in watch form factors. And existing companies as well.

So we'll see.  As we have discussed, the idea of a mobile PERS being as widely adopted as it is today also was not envisioned just a few years ago.

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