Post CES reflection on role of technology and Alzheimer's.
Boston, mid-May, 2016
Task-specific devices must add functions over time. The cliché in the tech industry is truer now than ever – because an innovation is possible – not always helpful, but possible -- it will be done. And adding functions to products is as inevitable as tomorrow’s sunrise. As we look around the home technology market, we can already see dedicated devices beginning to share activities: a TV can now be interactive, PCs and tablets now functional for viewing movies, radios that become speakers for Internet streaming, ever-more multi-function kitchen devices and so on. As devices become multi-purpose, they can also add new channels of distribution – opening up new retailers, catalogues, websites, and show venues.
Special purpose senior technologies will become multi-purpose. The first step is to broaden the product offering mix. Examples just from this site’s press releases: Stationary PERS companies like Tunstall will see the mobile opportunity. And a remote monitoring company adds PERS with fall detection, security company Essence adds PERS. The next step after the product mix and features expand would then be to also expand channels of distribution and broaden the mechanics of reaching prospective customers. Unfortunately in the senior tech industry, too much time is spent locked in the business prospects of the same-old, same-old customers – and for the 90% of the PERS industry, milking the same-old, same-old is far too typical. Furthermore, witness those companies that sell into the senior housing industry – whither that industry’s fortunes (88% occupancy in 2012, 89% in 2013), so goes that of the laser-focused suppliers – and the industry’s optimistic real estate investors.
When business is excellent, is it time to search a market for shifts? Study the Leading Age exhibitors next week if you are attending – compare to 2012. ALFA – 2012 and 2013. So what is the jolt that shakes complacent organizations into a new market? Even with the prevalence of wireless and mobile devices, the healthcare industry is still rooted firmly into buildings, still waiting for a government signal to force change. Yet there is growing evidence in that industry that transformation is here in some sectors like Medicaid and the VA – and for the remaining sectors, it is a few years, not decades, away. Home health care as a sector will similarly grow at the expense of brick and mortar face-to-face treatments. As for the booming home care sector, it clearly is one of the competitive factors, along with fears about outliving savings, keeping the age of assisted living residents so high.
Watch for complacency and change – in yours and surrounding markets. So you walk the halls of trade shows, searching for something new and different, listening to pitches, reading the brochures and signage. But wait, stop, go back to the repeat and familiar exhibitors. Ask them what they see as the destabilizing or inspiring factor that could drive them into new market areas. What is the most exciting (or most worrisome) development they have seen in the past year? What other businesses do they know of that are deliberately reducing their investment in steady state growth in favor of new areas? Why? If you pass me at the 2013 Connected Health Symposium or the mHealth Summit wandering around trying to figure that out, stop and say hello – and tell me what you think.