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Ten Tech Market Wishes for 2010

For those of you still staring at your computer screen in 2009, I just have one (!) more thing to say. Okay, well maybe 10 things. Here are my wishes for the tech market that has, but has not yet fully realized, the potential to better serve baby boomers and seniors in 2010.

1. Large vendors will be clear about plans, initiatives, pricing ideas, pilots.  This seems crazy, but I bet you don't really know what Verizon, Philips, or Microsoft is working on to help make our lives and those of our family members better next year -- whether its monitoring our health, delivering medical services, or providing easier to use technology? That's because they aren't saying. This can't be for competitive fears about market encroachment in a market where lack of awareness is the dominant player. It can't be because they don't want to appear smart and thoughtful about the future. So let's hear what's on their innovation minds.

2. Small vendors will stop worrying about each other.  Not so dissimilar from the large vendors -- the new entrants worry a lot about someone stealing their ideas. Since execution and market awareness are the keys to success in this market (not the whiz-bang-coolness of technology patents), what the other guy is doing is important to know. Multiple market entrants, shared contact names, strategies, and partnerships are the ingredients of watching a rising tide that will -- you know -- lift all boats.

3. The senior care industry will pilot and promote. Every vendor will obtain a market champion who will implement their technology, issue a press release, talk to someone in the NY Times, and get the attention of someone like Kathy Greenlee, new head of the Administration on Aging, who will add technology adoption to her priorities, currently quoted in McKnight's as: "nutrition services, supportive services, services to Native American Tribes, and work on elder rights and justice." And these senior care industry folk (who support in-home family and professional care as well as senior housing-based) will work hard to drive product combination solutions that work.

4. New ecosystems will form around technologies and vendors.  Whether it is software, wireless sensors, location and mobility, vendors who have something will find interest from large vendors who will see what they are doing as a way to appeal to a market waiting for price, usefulness, and visibility to converge. Continua Health Alliance is a certification body, but not an ecosystem surrounding a vendor platform or device.

5. Health, aging, assistive, and social tech segments will find each other. We know that baby boomers, while likely to benefit from extended lifespan, may be in worse shape than their counterparts a decade ago. We know that chronic disease is an aging issue and that aging individuals worry about health. Yet health-related organizations typically do not reflect the human side of aging and the needs of the elderly -- look for 'aging' or 'elderly' on this site -- Center for Connected Health to see what I mean. One exception -- recognizing the overlap, the Silvers Summit at CES this year has added a Digital Health segment. Now maybe Health 2.0 or Connected Health events next year will add sessions on issues and opportunities in aging.

6. All technologies will have assistive capabilities and social awareness. Do you want to hear this app talk? Want to see the screen backlit and text enlarged? Want to switch to spoken or touch  commands now? And no tech should be in the market that acts unaware of related social networks. Search for diabetes self-test devices and just look at the first few links -- not only are the websites poorly designed, but there are no links to diabetes-related online communities.

7. Robots will move past the futuristic stage, drop in price, be deployed.   Let's not see 2010 be a repeat of 2009, with plenty of articles about research robots that COULD help in the care of the elderly, that COULD be used by boomers as a second set of eyes to help with their parents who live alone.  With only a few commercially available (like CareBot at $20,000 -- or HAL, not available in the US yet), let's hear some successful product use cases which make it into the Wall Street Journal as useful to support and augment capabilities as we age, not just as exotic, expensive and/or cool.

8. Fall prevention will meet fall detection. An article about grant-supported fall prevention programs is great, especially when the program includes an assessment of fall risk.  But this year I have heard multiple fall prevention presentations -- none of which mentioned even a PERS device, let alone an automated fall detection device. This seems somewhat irresponsible -- nice to help people recognize their risk, strengthen their bones, improve their balance, but let's allow for the possibility that they still might fall and be far worse off if left undetected.

9. Those who understand aging will train entrants who don't.  It has been disturbing to hear about home automation, security, and long-time tech industry folks enter into a market with little or no knowledge of the customer. It is equally disturbing that professionals in the age-related industries don't sponsor training programs for these entrants. For example, let's take ASA -- is there a free or low-cost course for non-ASA members so they could understand the profile and expectations of the user (and customer), therefore provide better technology and appropriate service? I read the Aging in America session catalog.  Didn't see 'Customize home automation tech for the senior market' or 'Home Security vendors -- how to support PERS buyers'.

10. People stop worrying about reimbursement and price. Next year will be the year in which technologies that help us as we age (regardless of their purpose) will be priced appropriately to be consumed -- either by professionals on behalf of the rest of us or by consumers directly.  That means on the one hand, that costs to manufacture must be low(er) and that broad adoption will require realistic and acknowledged initial losses and longer payback periods. And on the other hand, if a technology helps reduce health risks and repeated hospitalizations, if online or e-mail consultations can offer care, then reimbursement for the providers of technology or care will be reimbursed for their product or time. Period.  2010 may be that year!

This is it for me for the year -- I can't write another thing!