UMaine faculty shared some of their latest aging-related research projects with students and colleagues.
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Tech for aging in place -- still waiting, integrators wanted
Product potential and interest is there. Within the past few weeks I have been briefed by no fewer than 10 firms about products/solutions being developed to serve the 'aging in place' consumer -- a few are launched: they represent some combination of offerings for senior, caregiver, provider -- with and without devices directly in the home. Some of these startups are steadfastly convinced that offerings can be sold directly through consumer channels, while those with more configurable products may see the need to recruit channel partners to get into the market. Meanwhile, in the past year or so, I have heard from various local service providers (some have registered in this Forum entry) about delivering solutions, even testing them in labs, to help seniors. This is good.
Support on the one hand, compatibility on the other. Over the last year, CrossLoop now reflects the unmet need of seniors to get help with computer problems -- offering CrossLoop Home as a paid service for family members to share computer expertise and screens. SeniorNet offers regional training centers for use of computers. But beyond the doorway of the home, who is packaging and integrating solutions together, considering the computer, the network, the sensor network (!), and the telehealth devices all hang together in a coherent and supported way? At the device compatibility end of the spectrum, check out this press release from telehealth vendor IDEAL LIFE which now offers "Apple, AT&T, Cricket, Google, HTC, LG, Nokia, Motorola, RIM, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Verizon, and Virgin Mobile." And not to be bested in the buzzword category, of course, mHealth (mobile) requirements are met.
Retail -- is that the right model? I have also had inquiries like this: "I haven't seen technology for aging in place at Best Buy or Target. Are there manufacturer's representatives that focus on aging products? How do you see future products getting to the consumer?" Good question, can only ask, not answer. Is Best Buy or Target the route? I am doubtful that placement of tech products in a retail store will be accompanied by enough expertise to get products into the home of seniors, but even with motivated 'family experts' as buyers, will they be bought and not implemented, or implemented and then discarded? Is the Geek Squad the answer? I know some vendors are pursuing this -- I look forward to hearing about sustained success.
The dealer channel -- is that it? Security, home automation, and other consumer electronics and home theater vendors (see CEDIA.Net) want to expand revenue streams and are experimenting with PERS resale and home monitoring (some with telehealth device add-ons) -- see this offering from iControl as one example. Are there guidelines for what constitutes a minimum or maximum package (imagine a (Quad-play) to 'keep elderly in their home for longer'? Is there a well-understood and repeatable process for training reps about communicating with and introducing tech to older adults? Again, please offer success stories.
What about the healthcare professional? IDEAL LIFE is a telehealth/telemedicine vendor (like Intel Health Guide, Viterion, Honeywell, Bosch) -- the output of biometric readings are provided to health professionals through (see above) multiple device alternatives. But these folks don't and most likely won't have the whole person top of mind when they enter the home, focused on chronic disease management and monitoring up to, but not necessarily including caregiving roles and tasks. Device vendors do not view their role as responsible for integrating multiple technologies together for long-term use in the home and their provider channels seem unlikely to as well. On the contrary, the industry is still 'studying' the benefits.
Local integrators wanted -- and an accompanying integrator process. The "Checklist" for buying technologies for aging in place is, of course, reversible for manufacturers and sellers. But we still have a desperate need for local integrators, whether they work for national organizations or not -- entering the home is, by definition, local. These integrators offer a menu of product alternatives, not just one, taking into account the existing home infrastructure -- telephone, wireless, broadband, computer, telehealth devices, what else? The integrators (maybe from the dealer category above) have formed alliances perhaps with geriatric care managers, discharge planners from local hospitals and rehab facilities. Maybe they know what tech offerings should be in a discharge kit, for example, so that an individual who lives alone doesn't return to the hospital. Maybe these include medication management devices or dispensers. These integrators form relationships -- knowing who's who and what choices are offered -- with local carrier offices of Comcast, Verizon, AT&T or whomever.
Feedback of course is welcome.