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Market Overview for Technology for Aging in Place

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These hacker attacks make Y2K look trivial

Does anyone remember Y2K?  It happened just 15 years ago. The $100 billion in the US -- $350 billion worldwide -- that was spent to convert information systems to move from a 2-digit year to a 4-digit year, well, it seems so last century. The belief at that time: The move from the YYMM format of dates in all systems everywhere (all military, government, and commercial) in the year 2000 would create a "0001" January 1, 2000 date format that would result in disaster. Checks couldn’t be issued, military systems would fail, hospitals and power plants would shut down or off. This was preceded by sky-is-falling anxiety, particularly among IT people who bore the brunt of redirecting work to code this change.

Technology for seniors – dial down passion, dial up market readiness

The passion of innovation for seniors. Rant on. It’s the most I have seen in the past five years: the halo that surrounds finding new companies that could, perhaps, help older adults, even if they were designed for some other purpose. Many assess them, invite them to networking events, cultivate and encourage their expectations about future opportunity and even award them prizes. The criteria for selection/participation of these entrants are not always disclosed, but phrases about criteria are on the sponsoring entities' websites. New entrants will "have an already developed, scalable and financially sustainable product/service" or they will be "capable of scaling" or they will judge "how easy is it to get the product?" Or the product/service will have "sustainable competitive advantages, positioning or efficiencies." So you might be persuaded that the companies that enter, apply, win, or gain investment must actually exhibit these characteristics.

Can anyone make money with designs that are just for seniors?

The more innovation there is, the more some things don’t change.  Stroll through this Aging 2.0 Summit link – and you will see pages of logos of new, newer, and newest companies trying to make a technology or product that could be used to serve seniors – or perhaps help those who serve them. Or the AARP Health50 Live Pitch, or the Stanford Longevity Design Challenge or the Quintiles competition at Wake Forest in North Carolina. Yet again and again, the question bubbles up – can firms make money creating and selling technology or other innovations specifically designed for seniors?  

Five aging in place technologies from AARP’s LivePitch

Everybody off the bus -- the last convention for AARP. Last week’s Life@50+ National Event in Miami was reportedly the last time AARP will produce one of these national entertainment-filled conventions with speakers and tracks for all interests and crowds of boomer-and-beyond women (mostly, based on observation) -- volunteering to pack lunches, climbing onto buses, and basking in the Florida sunshine. The health-focused startup Live Pitch event on Thursday heard 4 minutes from the 10 finalists, 2 minutes from five Florida-based startups, and short 1-minute pitches from alternates from each of those. Judges selected Splitsecnd, a portable device-plus-service for automatic vehicle crash tracking (similar to GM's profitable OnStar, but currently vehicle brand-independent). The audience voted for Audicus (for buying lower-priced hearing aids online) and Constant Therapy (a mobile solution to help patients improve brain function after stroke or brain injury.)

Tech for aging at home – plenty of news, what’s the meaning?

In tackling aging with tech -- interesting few weeks.  Sometimes odd things happen in sequences that beg a backward search for meaning. So let’s recap: within the past three weeks, Silicon Valley VCs invested in a presumably tech-enabled home care agency, Apple and IBM coughed up 5 million iPads for Japanese seniors (to “tackle aging”), and the US Senate held a hearing on the benefits of technology for those aging at home. Some might see these three disparate events, when viewed together, as a trend that shows how tech, big companies, and public policy are all coming together in an age-related trifecta of tech transformation. Whew!

Marketing nonsense alternatives to assisted living by preying on fear

Are ‘drop-in chefs’ an alternative to assisted living?  Some headline writers saw an opportunity – and some ran with the title even though the original NPR story stepped back a bit and said ‘help seniors stay in their own homes.’  You probably have heard that cost-sharing is an alternative to assisted living. Or sharing your home with roommates through Room2Carewith the founder wisely observing “Not everyone needs to be in assisted living.” Or let’s take Granny Pods – are they an alternative to assisted living? Remember these – prefab back yard cottages fit up with computers to provide medication reminders?  Or maybe Information Week’s Eight Technologies provide an alternative to assisted living -- the article said ‘changing home health care,’ but web designers know SEO and threw in 'assisted living.'

Look back at innovation competitions to help older adults

Competitions abound – all need groundwork.  Just a few years ago you might have noticed that there were few business plan competitions for products and services targeting the older adult market (the Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit begun by Mary Furlong in 2004 was a rare exception.)  When its Letter of Intent page appeared at the end of 2011, CMS innovation grant applications included technology submissions behind the scenes, in partnership with non-profits and healthcare delivery organizations. Then came the $1 billion round two announced in December 2014 – and with that, multiple other tech solutions were included to help deliver significant changes, including health information exchanges, patient engagement, the emerging field of population health, and today’s CMS reimbursement for telehealth.  With these approvals, CMS effectively laid the groundwork for many of the firms that compete today in health segments.

Identity theft is a big deal -- and it's too late to stop it

Had your identity stolen lately? Oh well, you probably did. A few months ago, California’s Anthem Blue Cross admitted that someone had stolen 80 million health records, complete with name, address, SS # and more. A certain amount of self-congratulation can be found in its letter to the 80+ million: "The information accessed may have included names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, health care ID numbers, home addresses, email addresses, employment information, including income data. We have no reason to believe credit card or banking information was compromised." What a relief. But with the ‘minimal’ data stolen, the thieves got busy and filed for tax refunds from the IRS, which helpfully encourages direct deposit of the refund. TurboTax halted its electronic filing process recently due to likely fraudulent filing. And the IRS, which admits to weak fraud detection tools, will issue refunds as a result of this travesty.  

Can Honor's tech geeks deliver the 2.0 home care agency?

Does the opportunity with home care rest in its technology? Some Silicon Valley fellows think that it is does, and with a cool $20 million raised, they are launching Honor. What is this oddly named thing? What they've said: it's an in-home care agency that will have a smartphone app for the adult child plus a tablet in the care recipient’s home to say "what time the aide is arriving."  Oh, and it seems likely they will have home care aides who are paid better wages, at least in the SF area, where the 'earth revolves around San Jose' – no kidding, that heading is from the San Jose paper. Oh, and did I forget to mention that they will manage a process to help families hire home care aides?

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The accelerating pace of useless technology upgrades

Tech companies want consumers who can be herded forward.  There was the magic of the iPhone 6 and the 6-plus.  By the time those came out, the old iPhones were tired, maybe too slow -- Apple fans were eager, if not desperate for a better device. Then not so long after Samsung introduced its Galaxy S4 in May 2013, it announced the S5 in February 2014. The Samsung Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy Edge (and their updates) showed up this week -- hustled out the door to keep pace with media mega-hype of the Apple Watch. How wonderful and different are the new Samsung gadgets from the S3 and S5?  Wait for it – startup with a finger swipe, a curved edge and again imitating Apple… no removable batteries. Oh, so the new phones have a 12-hour battery life?  Well, you can charge the phone within 15 minutes to get 4 hours of life out of it? Not so good when the day is long.

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