3 Wearable Tech Entrepreneurs Share What Motivated Them to Address the 50+ Market
In collaboration with MedCity News, AARP recently presented 50 companies with a reader's choice "50+ Innovation Leaders" award, highlighting leaders in the field of everything from smart aging and wearables to behavioral health, care coordination and caregiver quality of life. The full report can be downloaded here.
MedCity combed through the profiles of the winners and pulled out some gems of insight on what motivates these entrepreneurs to work with the aging population and who their healthcare heroes are.
AliveCor produced the FDA-cleared Kardia to function as a mobile heart monitor. Founder and Chief Medical Officer Dave Albert shared what motivated him to develop a device to help aging populations:
The developed world is aging from Japan to Europe to the United States. Diseases like Alzheimer’s, heart disease and cancer are consuming more and more resources. We need to develop solutions for these problems that are practical and affordable for the aging population.
Stephanie Alves founded ABL Denim to improve the quality of life for physically disabled individuals to give them more flexibility on clothing options. Her step-sister inspired her to start the business, which also serves members of the aging population who experience increasingly limited mobility.
My step-sister, a baby boomer, became a wheelchair user after several failed back surgeries. To find fashionable clothing that was easier to dress in and non-harmful was impossible; there were only geriatric styles available. She inspired me to use my background as a designer in the fashion industry and lifelong history with family members with disabilities to start a business making clothing that offers in-style functional clothing, enabling greater independence, boosting self-esteem, and making the work of dressing easier for caregivers each and every day.
Shai Gozani, the CEO of NeuroMetrix [who recently wrote a Guest Voices blog post for The Longevity Network], which produces the FDA-cleared Quell wearable device to relieve pain, was inspired to work with the aging population to address the chronic conditions he believes many technology companies inadequately serve:
There are far too many “cool technologies” chasing problems. Most wearable devices target the worried well but don’t address the major societal challenges. As the population ages, the impact of chronic disease, including pain, is rapidly growing with an estimated cost over $2 trillion annually in the United States. Technology can not only address costs but dramatically improve quality of life.
To learn more about the 50+ Innovation Leaders across smart living and wearables, healthcare delivery, medication management, entrepreneurial innovation and behavioral health, see MedCity's full profile list here.
The Longevity Network’s LivePitch Wrap
Day 1 of AARP’s Innovation@50+ wrapped up yesterday afternoon when the Judge’s Choice and Audience Choice Awards for best Caregiving Healthcare Tech companies were named! If you want to watch the full competition with fast pitches and questions from the judges, check out our videos below.
Round 1 of the pitch competition:
Round 2 and the winners' annoucement:
Here’s a quick wrap on each of the pitches and the questions judges and audience members posed to the entrepreneurs, starting with the two winners.
Winner of the 2017 Judge’s Choice Award: GoGoGrandparent
Justin Boogaard, co-founder of GoGoGrandparent, tells the audience that existing on-demand transportation services like Uber or Lyft would be perfect for older adults, except for two major problems: 1) 70% of users over 65 don’t have a smart phone, which is a prerequisite for using them 2) aging leads to certain kinds of slowing down, which means older users would miss certain changes and problems with using those prevalent transportation providers. GoGoGrandparent solves both these issues by coordinating access to their services using landline call-ins and by tracking and verifying all those changes that an older adult might miss—meaning that up to 25% of their users end up speaking to a real person on the other end of the GoGoGrandparent line.
An AARP member of the audience asked how the company planned to control for older adults having more and more access to smartphones. Answer: There are two major problems their app solves—one is access and it’s true that one is changing. But the other is declining capability of the elderly to adapt to unforeseen changes, such as a driver canceling a ride on Uber. And that will continue to be a need, said Boogaard “until we solve aging”).
Winner of the 2017 Audience Choice Award: Siren Care
Ran Ma, co founder and CEO of Siren Care, told listeners that their mission is to create smart textiles to empower people. Their first product is a smart sock to help diabetics prevent ulcers and amputation. If Siren Care is right, “the only wearables you need are the clothes you wear everyday.” They started with a product for diabetics because there are over 400 people living with it, and because missing an injury leads to loss of independence and rising healthcare costs. The sensors are integrated into the fabric of the sock and the data is sent directly to the Siren app.
Judges asked about market differentiation. Answer: Many current socks for diabetics are compression socks, which only prevent edema. But research shows that only temperature monitoring reduces foot ulcers, and all other temperature sensors require behavior changes by the user, for example, using a thermometer to take the temperature of each individual foot and record readings throughout the day.
Aegle Palette’s CEO and co-founder Yulin Li told the audience that their patented digital placemats use weights to determine and record nutritional info of meals for diabetics. Palette 1.0 captures primary data, like activity and stress levels, and correlates it with biomarkers, like blood glucose levels. This data is all stored in the Palette Vault, which is accessible to the medical team continuously. Palette 2.0 then analyzes that data and provides personalized recommendations to the patient, making it a B2B2C platform.
The judges wanted to know more about how the hardware in the placemat works. Answer: Through photo recognition of food items and a scale to determine quantity of nutrients, calories, etc.).
AgeWell’s CEO and Founder Mitch Besser opened with a quote from the US surgeon general from 2016: “isolation is the greatest health crisis facing America”. Their solution? Employ able seniors to travel around their communities checking on less able seniors in their homes. Empowered with only a smartphone and a simple set of screening questions, these able seniors—known as AgeWells—can “be the eyes and ears of the healthcare system” to reduce hospital readmissions, ER visits and the need for institutionalized care.
Judges asked for specifics on what kind of information the AgeWells are collecting through the app. Answer: Behavioral data like whether they are falling or sleeping, or information about whether they have all their meds and food in the fridge.)
BrainCheck’s COO, Wendy Fong, said it is the first evidence-based, self-administered test for measuring brain function. The company has already secured designation as a class 2 medical device and their “Sport” version has already been adopted by many schools and athletic teams to monitor head injuries for signs of concussion. They are hoping to “replicate the success of BrainCheck Sport in the memory market” by targeting mainly older adults and their caregivers.
Judges wanted to know what kind of tests are the current standard of care to assess memory and cognition in this population. Answer: There is typically a 6-8 month wait to see a specialist. In senior living centers where they use a pencil-and-paper screener, tests take 2+ hours and provide only a raw score without specifying memory vs. cognition scores.
CEO Dirk Soenksen of Ceresti Health says their target users are the unpaid caregivers for patients with Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias (ADOD), stroke, and traumatic brain injury. This enormous market of patients, he says, are “unable to self-manage” because they can’t communicate or track their own behavior, medication, etc. Ceresti’s proprietary 12-week program proposes to solve a large part of this problem delivered as a tech-enabled solution for these unpaid caregivers that provides Education, Care Plans, Support, and Coaching
An AARP member of the audience posed a great question to Soenksen, wondering whether they were aiming to replace paid caregivers. Answer: Not necessarily. Their main target users are family members already providing unpaid care and who often cannot afford paid care. Cost savings come not from replacing paid caregivers but from reduced hospitalizations and ER visits.
iBeat’s founder and CEO, Ryan Howard says they offer two emergency response products. The $249 iBeat Watch which has a button on the watch which acts like a life alert as well as proprietary cardiac sensors monitoring function for emergency incidents. Cellular connectivity is included. Second, it includes the free Heart Hero mobile app that teaches you CPR and tests your proficiency. As part of the Heart Hero network, you will be notified if someone is having a heart incident nearby, so you can be the good Samaritan by either providing CPR or locating the nearest defibrillators whose locations are provided by the app.
A savvy audience member in the audience asked whether there would be a way the watch could predict a heart incident and not simply react to one. Answer: The watch cannot yet provide this incredibly valuable service but it is already collecting large amounts of data about this population and it is the vision to utilize that data to add predictive capability to the watch.
Co-founder of Kinto, Jeet Singh, explains that Kinto is an app to help manage communications and coordinate care among family, paid caregivers, and the medical team. It also aims to provide caregivers with a community of support and practical tools to help them deal with their caregiving responsibilities, including financial planning, cost tracking, home care coordination, and safety and insurance recommendations. It is set up to provide the service direct to consumers or to large employers looking to provide valuable benefits to their many employees who provide unpaid caregiving to family members.
Judges inquired about their market differentiation in what is an increasingly crowded marketplace. Answer: Most of the competitors are provider-focused whereas Kinto begins with caregiver needs –many of which are not medical.
Heidi Culbertson, CEO and founder, said Marvee provides a centralized portal for voice-activated caregiving solutions. It is currently integrated as a series of “skills” for Amazon’s Echo but is designed to be platform-agnostic so it could eventually integrate with any number of voice-activated home devices. Today, they have several services in market, including 1) “I’m ok” alerts; 2) engagement services like family news that Marvee can deliver when asked; 3) b2b services like turning paper into voice for answering ‘everyday questions’ in a senior living facility, where many residents cannot read paper handouts about what’s for lunch or what time today’s
An audience member asked for hard evidence on seniors’ willingness to adopt voice interface, given that voice-activated devices still malfunction. Answer: In the beta phase of testing Marvee, they saw a dramatic increase in usage at the 30-day mark, which shows the seniors were understanding the interface. They credit this adoption success at least in part to their “try this today” feature—which sends out, for example, a song from the era in which the user grew up. This feature builds an emotional connection to Marvee and improves adoption.
PillDrill, says Founder and CEO Peter Havas, simplifies and modernizing medication taking. Specifically, it does 3 things: 1) reminds you to take meds 2) tracks what you take through a quick bottle scan; 3) notifies family members / care givers of medication adherence. Its strengths are simplicity because it doesn’t require a smart phone, flexibility because you can program it for any regimen of medication adherence, and dignity because “in order for a product to become part of a person’s life, it cannot just be needed; it has to be loved.”
After learning the device costs $199 with no additional monthly subscription, judges were curious how they had reached this particular price point. Answer: Research about this kind of device shows that it needs to be to be over $100 in order for users to trust it but less than $200 in order to be accessible to the largest number of users.
AARP’s CEO Jo Ann Jenkins Addresses LivePitch Audience
When LivePitch emcee Lisa Suennen, Senior Managing Director of GE Ventures, took the stage this morning, she framed the day's conversation, saying, “As baby boomers age, we will challenge nearly every part of our economy.”
At the beginning of her keynote address to the LivePitch audience, AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins said that a 10-year-old child today has a 50% chance of living to 104. And that number will continue to rise. “This new longevity is one of the greatest human achievements of our time,” she said, but our social attitudes and institutions have not yet caught up to the new realities of living longer lives.
AARP—and particularly this annual LivePitch competition—has one purpose in mind, says Jenkins: to empower people to choose how they live and age by providing resources and opportunities to match their longer life spans.
HEALTH, WEALTH AND SELF
Genetics accounts for only 25% of our expected life span, Jenkins reported, meaning our health has more to do with the choices we make each day than it does with our occasional visits to the doctor’s office.
This also means that our innovators have an opportunity to address the other 75%, to help older adults make smarter, healthier choices and live longer, more independent lives. But research AARP has done shows that people deal with issues related to health, wealth and self all at once, not in silos. So they don’t want solutions that put them in silos either.
Innovators are answering the call, says Jenkins. because "innovation is the engine for disrupting [our outdated views on] aging.”
Moreover, she told the audience, it is a myth that aging adults are resistant to technology as a solution to their needs. They are in fact seeking those solutions. They just need them to be simple and intuitive to use.
The challenge to all of us is to take advantage of all the information and research on living well and turn it into solutions that people want, whether those people need care or are providing that care.
FIRESIDE CHAT WITH LISA SUENNEN
The most shocking fact I have, said Jenkins, is that on average, adults are now more likely to spend more time and resources caring for an older family member than they did caring for their kids. It’s a bipartisan issue—because nearly every lawmaker has a caregiving story.
At AARP, she added, we are asking, how do we care for the caregiver?
Jo Ann Jenkins herself just lost her father two weeks ago and recently experienced what it's like to coordinate care, along with her sister, long distance. When asked whether she learned anything in taking care of her own father that informs in a new way what she was already talking about everyday, she reported that near the end of her father's life, she learned he had decided to change his healthcare plan. This plan ended up not being adequate for his needs, and it was a decision was reached in conversation with his doctor, without any of the family's knowledge.
So when Jo Ann returned to AARP, that experience triggered a conversation about investigating how difficult it is to choose an adequate health plan—and how AARP could play a role in advocating for simplifying those choices and also starting a conversation about who has decision-making power.
Wait ‘Till You Hear This: Eversound
Childhood friends Matt Reiners and Jake Reisch have a lot in common: they were on the same Little League team, had high school lockers next to each other, and have fathers who are professors at Cornell.
In 2015, the 25 year-olds, who together had already launched one audio technology company (you’ll hear soon), shared another bond. Both Reiners’ grandmother and Reisch’s aunt have hearing loss that was preventing them from fully participating in events in their assisted living communities. The young entrepreneurs saw it as a challenge to solve.
It sounds like they have. Reisch, Reiners, and a third founder Devin Jamison, just age 20 at the time, started Eversound. It is the first wireless listening system developed for senior living communities. With special headphones, residents can hear better at group events such as movies, meetings, lectures, theatre, music performances and exercise classes.
Up to 130 long-term care residents at a time can wear the headphones, which can be individually and ergonomically adjusted. They also fit over a hearing aid. A compact wireless transmitter broadcasts the audio signal from any common audio source to all headphones within 300 feet.
Why Senior Communities Are Listening
Eversound has been snapped up by seven of the 20 largest U.S. long term care providers. It is in 100 communities in 18 states that provide various levels of care, including independent and assisted living, skilled nursing and memory.
Why such interest from providers? When residents can hear well there is better attendance, more engagement in the activity, less frustration and hopefully, a better quality of life. Put another way, hearing loss can lead to social isolation, depression and even mental decline.
A study conducted at two facilities using Eversound, one with dementia residents, found that engagement with the headphones increased 28%, with 17% fewer participants leaving the group or falling asleep during the group activity.
This is music to the ears of the founders, who realized that hearing is a huge problem--and market—that is growing rapidly as the baby boomers and older age.
Consider these hearing loss statistics:
- 18% of ages 45-64
- 30% of 65-74 year-olds
- 47% of age 75+
- 80% of age 85+
- More than 30 million age 65+ by 2050
- Only 20% ages 55-74 who could benefit from a hearing aid use one (the hassle of wearing it, the cost, which can be as much as $6,000 and is rarely covered by insurance)
“When I first heard about the system, I thought it would just magnify the volume, but it also eliminates background noise,” says Lucia Leber, executive director of The Residence at Otter Creek in Middlebury, Vermont. Her senior living community is a customer.
The company charges $269/month for 20 headphones, but providers can get more. There is an initial set up fee of $300.
Recently, a former fire chief and new resident from Otter Creek used Eversound at a lecture and a meeting. “For the first time in a long time, he was able to follow what was going on in the room,” recalls Leber. “It changed his life in one day!” Leber finds residents in memory care are more engaged with the system, too.
Adele Pierce, 95, a self-avowed “political freak,” goes to all the lectures on current events there. “I hate straining to listen or sit in the front row under the nose of the speaker. Now I really hear what they have to say,” she says. “I enjoy the event and think, ‘maybe I’ll go to the next one because this was so easy!’”
From Silent Disco to Senior Living
Both of Reisch’s and Reiners’ business ventures involve headphones, yet the audiences could not be more different. Their first company Party Headphones, created in 2013, when Reisch was a junior at Cornell, rents wireless sets to students, companies and organizations for “silent disco” events. Never heard of them? Everyone has headphones and listens to music from different DJs. Participants dance while blasting the tunes but no one can hear them (as in “silent”). Party Headphones and Eversound, which has 12 employees, share headquarters outside of Boston.
As of last year, 35,000 people have used their headphones for silent disco events. Among their clients: Twitter, Spotify and Red Bull.
Reisch thought of the concept after attending a silent disco party on the Cornell campus. The entrepreneurial management and marketing major called Reiners. He was working in sales for a large company--Reisch had taken time off from school--and convinced him to quit to help start Party Headphones.
As the two were building their company, they looked for other ways to apply the technology. Seeing their relatives in senior living challenged by hearing loss made them wonder why there was no alternative to hearing aids.
Reisch did some research. Over three months, he took his Party Headphones prototype to several continuing care communities for multiple visits, asking residents for their input on his model. “It allowed us to get a lot of feedback really quickly,” he says. Residents wanted the headphones to have ergonomic controls and be hearing aid-friendly.
Reisch, now CEO, recruited Cornell sophomore Jamison to help them start Eversound. Reisch calls him “the creative genius of design and product development.” Today he is in charge of the company’s brand.
After refining the prototype, the founders met Costas Papdopoulos, an engineer who had worked on wireless headset technology for the last 30 years—or, as Reisch points, out, longer than the founders have been alive! Papdopoulos, 72, who has some hearing loss, understood the issues loud and clear. He is Eversound’s Chief Technology Officer.
The founders may have distinct titles today, but as in most early stage companies, “at the beginning you need really hungry, driven people who are willing to fill in the gaps and not be assigned to a specific skill set,” says Reisch. “They need resilience to push through challenges.” What he finds most important though, is that team members must care about the product and the user.
Reiners, who heads up the company’s sales team, agrees: “It gives me goose bumps seeing the impact Eversound is having. I wake up excited knowing that we can help people.”
No more “what do you say?” “Speak up!” “I can’t hear you!” “Talk louder.”
What Role Should Robots Play for the Aging?: A Closer Look at ElliQ
There is no doubt machines--and the rapidly improving capabilities of artificial intelligence--will play a key role in the future of aging. In countries like Japan, where the population is a bit older than here in the United States, the extreme lack of caregivers has driven technological advance to produce caregiving robots.
Today The Smithsonian Magazine, with support from New America Media, the Gerontological Society of America and AARP, published a piece on a question we rarely pause to ask: what roles should machines play and what should be left to human beings, particularly when we consider older adults?
The relationship between humans and robots is a tricky thing. If the latter looks too much like the former, but is still clearly a machine, people think it’s creepy, even repulsive—a feeling that’s become known as the “uncanny valley.”
Or, as is sometimes the case, the human, with “Star Wars” or “The Jetsons” as his or her reference points, is disappointed by all the things the robot can’t yet do. Then, there is the matter of job insecurity—the fear of one day being replaced by a tireless, unflappable, unfailingly consistent device.
Human-robot interactions can be even more complicated for one group in particular—older adults. Many are not that comfortable with new technology, even less so if they feel it’s invading their privacy or a constant reminder of their own slipping cognitive skills.
10,000 Baby Boomers a day turn 65, but the first big wave of them is now turning 70, with much larger waves to come. The possible roles that robots could play is quite lengthy. But one need is clear: improving social engagement by augmenting and not diminishing real human connection.
“You have to walk this balance on where you are starting to impinge on somebody’s privacy versus tracking their safety and social engagement,” says David Lindeman, co-director of Health Care at the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) at the University of California, Berkeley. “That’s the compelling challenge of the next decade. How do we maximize the use of this technology without having unintended consequences.”
Is ElliQ the next generation of a voice-activated companion?
ElliQ is an Israeli-designed talking device designed to walk that line--it is charming but not cutesey, and most importantly, its language learning is meant to be intuitive and its movements are meant to approximate human body language. For the past month or so, the device has been tested by a small group of older adults in San Francisco.
ElliQ [is] more desk lamp than archetypal robot—think of the hopping light at the beginning of Pixar movies. But while ElliQ is meant to sit on a table or nightstand...it also moves, leaning toward the person with whom it’s speaking. It lights up, too, as another means of engagement, and uses volume and sound effects to distinguish its messages.
“Most of the way we communicate as humans is non-verbal,”[explains Dor Skuler, CEO and founder of Intuition Robotics, the Israeli company behind the device]. “It’s our body language, our use of silence and tone, [and] the way we hold ourselves. But when it comes to working with a computer, we’ve adapted to the technology instead of the other way around. We felt that a machine having a physical presence, versus a digital presence, would go a long way in having what we call natural communication.”
Skuler described a typical interaction. The grandchildren of an ElliQ owner send her photos through a chatbot using Facebook Messenger. When ElliQ sees new pictures have come in, it tells the grandmother and asks if she wants to look at them. If she says yes, ElliQ brings them up on its separate screen component. As the woman looks at the photos, so does ElliQ, tilting its “head” toward the screen, and turning the moment into more of a shared experience. With the help of its image recognition software, it might add, “Aren’t those girls cute?”
“It’s not the same as your adult child coming over to you and showing you photos of your grandchildren on her phone,” says Skuler. “But it’s also very different from you just looking at the photos on a screen by yourself. You weren’t with another person, but you weren’t really alone, either. We call that an in-between stage.
“What we like about this,” he adds, “is that without the family sending the content, there is no content. ElliQ isn’t there to replace the family. I don’t think we want to live in a world where people have meaningful relationships with machines. What it can do, though, is make that content more accessible and allow you to share the experience.”
Given that older adults are intended as prime users of ElliQ, designers felt it was crucial to respect the intelligence of the users, even as some of their cognitive abilities might be diminishing.
A lot of research went into how ElliQ looks and behaves, says Yves Béhar, founder of fuseproject, the Swiss industrial design firm that worked with Intuition Robotics on the project. That included getting input from experts on aging. (“Our first hire was a gerontologist,” says Skuler.)
“One of the key premises behind ElliQ is that technology is complicated and perhaps too complex for aging people to use,” Béhar says. “But artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to engage with a person in a much simpler way. It can remind a person to take their meds, or connect with their family, or just tell them, ‘Hey, why not go outside. It’s nice out.’
“And we felt that EllliQ should be a table object, rather than a creepy robot that follows you around,” he adds. “By keeping it in one room, a person can interact with it like they would a familiar appliance in a familiar context.”
AI has gotten good enough, say ElliQ's designers, that the device can learn which techniques work best for a specific person, for example, prodding versus simply reminding.
As Skuler explains it, one of the first steps in establishing a relationship with this particular robot is to set some goals, such as how many times a week a person wants to go out for a walk or be reminded to see friends. Then, it’s up to ElliQ to determine the most effective way to do its job. In other words, it will learn that one person responds better to “It’s nice out, why don’t you go for a walk,” while another needs to be prodded more aggressively with “You’ve been on the couch watching TV for four hours. Time to get up and take a walk.”
“That’s where the emotive side kicks in,” he says. “ElliQ can set a whole different tone, and use different body language and gestures based on what works and what doesn’t work. The machine fine-tunes itself.”
Emotional dependency, says Béhar, is not the goal.
“We don’t want to create the kind of emotional dependency that social media sometimes does,” he says. “We need to make sure it complements their human relationships. It’s very important that we keep that in mind as we develop these interactions between humans and machines with artificial intelligence.”
The "Caregiving Cliff" and the Debate over "Connected Aging"
AARP says a "caregiving cliff" is coming in 2030 which is likely to precipitate our adoption of machines. Still, it is possible to be thoughtful about which roles machines play for aging adults.
AARP's [predicts that] by 2030, there will be only four family caregivers available for every person needing care, and that that will drop to three caregivers by mid-century.
“There’s always been this interesting paradox at the heart of it,” says [Richard Adler, a research associate at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto]. “Of all the age groups, older adults stand to benefit the most from technology. In a lot of ways. But it also is the group that has the lowest level of adoption.”
He’s encouraged by the recent big leaps in voice recognition by machines because it allows older people to use technology without having to mess with smartphones or typing on small keyboards...[but] wary of machines taking too much control. “There’s the discussion of AI versus IA—intelligence augmented—where machines extend human capabilities instead of replacing them.”
That tension between what technology can now do and how much older people actually use it is at the heart of what’s become known as “connected aging”—the use of machines, from smartphones to sensors to wearable devices, that can enable adults to grow old in their own homes. David Lindeman, who is also director of the Center for Technology and Aging in California, has been studying how older adults interact with machines for a long time, and while he points out that researchers are still in the early stages of understanding how technology can affect social isolation, he sees a lot of potential.
“I think it’s better to err on the side of let’s get people engaged and see what works,” he says. “There are such deficits in terms of social engagement for a lot of people.” He points to software that makes it easier for older adults to share stories from their past, and the use of virtual reality to help them feel less isolated.
The Role of Sensors: Measuring a Baseline and Flagging Behavior Changes
“Motion sensors are the bread and butter because they can point to where a person is in the home,” says [Diane Cook, a researcher at Washington State University’s Center for Advanced Studies in Adaptive Systems]. “Location alone doesn’t let you know what’s going on, but when you combine it with the time of day, what happened right before, and where they were, then you can start to see patterns that make a lot of sense.”
The research has been augmented by assessments of the subjects’ mental and physical health every six months, and it turned out that Cook and her team were able to predict “with promising results” how people would score on the tests, based on what the sensor data showed about their behavior. Changes in sleep patterns, for instance, were found to be correlated with changes in cognitive health.
That, say longtime researchers like Lindeman, could be one of the greater benefits of technology when it comes to addressing the needs of an aging society. “We will be able to identify when people have differences in their gait, differences in their affect, differences in their interactions and the way they communicate, and that could help us pick up signs of depression and dementia much earlier.”
What Constitutes Advancement?: the Difference between Technological Success and Societal Success
At the end of the day, what role machines should play in the lives of aging adults is an ethical question. And to answer an ethical question, one needs a clear understanding of the desired goal.
[A]s with any technology, the rapid advances in AI and robotics can jump ahead of comprehending their impact. Guy Hoffman certainly understands this. Hoffman is a leading expert on human-robot interactions. A TED talk he did a few years ago, in which he showed robots improvising music, has been viewed almost 3 million times.
Now a researcher and visiting assistant professor at Cornell University, Hoffman served as an advisor on the ElliQ project.
Hoffman admits to having mixed feelings about [the way robots are better and better able to mimic empathetic behavior]. “There’s a bright side and a dark side to all of this. Do we want people to talk to robots when they feel lonely? Are we solving a problem or are we making it worse? Those are the questions we need to ask.
“I always remind people that success should not be measured by technological success, but by societal success. There is a distinction that needs to be made between what is possible to do and what is desirable to do with robotics.
“That is really one of the most important conversations we need to have about technology today,” Hoffman says. “In one way, technology is increasingly successful in addressing our social needs. But we do not want the technology to drive our human values. We want our human values to drive our technology.”
Apple Lags Far Behind Amazon, Google in Smart-home Market
While Apple has been a market leader in smartphone sales for over a decade, they have yet to even offer a voice-controlled device specifically for the home that could compete with Amazon’s Alexa or Alphabet’s Google Home.
Consumer electronics giant Apple (AAPL) is "losing badly" in the nascent smart-home market, despite having arguably the best user experience with its HomeKit technology, Edison Investment Research analyst Richard Windsor said in a note Tuesday.
Apple is a "very distant third" in the smart-home market..., Windsor said. [They have] been rumored to be working on a home appliance that uses its Siri voice-response personal assistant. But so far Siri is mostly an application on Apple's iPhone smartphones.
Siri of course can be voice-activated, but research shows the power of the home devices is that a user can have both hands fully occupied with some other task and still activate it.
"Usage of both Alexa and Google Home show that over 60% of all usage is generated when the user's hands are busy with another task, [said Windsor.] “This makes the use case of Siri on a device that needs to be removed from the pocket not as easy or as intuitive as Alexa or Google Home."
Still, Apple has made advances that neither of the other two tech giants have achieved.
Apple had done a better job of integrating home devices so users can give a single command when doing things like going to bed, leaving the home or returning home, Windsor said.
"This makes it easy to turn off all the lights, lock up, turn down the heating, and so on with a single button press, which is something that neither of the other two have come close to offering," Windsor said.
But consumer preference for the voice-activated home device may mean they miscalculated market priorities. If Apple is going to enter this burgeoning market, they are going to have a lot of catching up to do.
Amazon's Alexa grabbed 88% of the intelligent home speaker market in the fourth quarter, Strategy Analytics said Tuesday. Alphabet came in second with 10% market share after launching its Google Home speaker in November, the research firm said.
Some 4.2 million intelligent home speakers were shipped worldwide in the fourth quarter, up nearly 600% year over year, Strategy Analytics said.
"Amazon has had a near two-year head start over its rivals and has done an excellent job of building out an ecosystem of compatible devices and services or skills," Strategy Analytics analyst David Watkins said in a statement. "However, Google is hot on Amazon's heels and the search giant should be able to significantly cut Amazon's lead over the coming year thanks to its superior AI platform and well-established technology-licensing model, which has proved successful through its Chromecast built-in program."
Buoy Launches AI-Powered Symptom Checking App
Buoy officially launched in August of 2016 but operated in stealth mode for the past several months, during which it acquired 5,000 users. A battery of tests done during this “stealth” phase found Buoy's diagnosis was right 92 percent of the time, compared to WebMD’s 56 percent, Healthline’s 53 percent and Mayo Clinic’s 38 percent. Armed with these promising numbers, Buoy will now be available to everyone, either online or through an app.
Buoy [is] an AI-powered resource...that sources from over 18,000 clinical papers, covering 5 million patients and spanning 1,700 conditions. Beyond a symptom checker, Buoy starts by asking age, sex, and symptoms, then measures against the proprietary and granular data to decide which questions to ask next. Over about two to three minutes, Buoy’s questions narrow down to get more and more specific before offering individuals a list of possible conditions, along with options for what to do next.
Co-founder Andrew Le was led to the idea when his father did some online research about some symptoms he was experiencing. He determined it was nothing to be concerned about but then soon fell very ill.
That led Le to take a sabbatical from medical school to work on Buoy. Under the guidance of Harvard’s machine-learning expert Ryan Howard and Dr. Warner Slack, who conducted some of the first experiments between a human and a computer and is considered the “Father of Cybermedicine,” Le and his colleague Eddie Reyes began building the tool.
[But even before his father fell ill, as] a third-year medical student at Harvard Medical School, Le was also seeing the harm, or the unnecessary fear, that resulted from self-diagnosis based on Googling symptoms or even using the common symptom checker platforms available.
“Most people Google their symptoms, but the information is unreliable,” said Le, who is CEO and cofounder of Buoy. “I was working in the ER as a medical resident, and I saw so many people Googling and essentially guessing from the results, and very often guessing wrong. It turned out that 78 percent of patients could have been taken care of out of the ER, and while that is better safe than sorry, that’s a lot of waste.”
Over the past three years, Le and his colleague Eddie Reyes worked with a team at the Innovation Laboratory at Harvard to develop a digital health tool that would function as a health-specific search engine while also giving patients pointers and compassion along the way.
Le and his colleagues wanted to create Buoy to not only make searching for health information less terrifying, but to ensure people had a tool to make more contextual decisions about their health and improve treatment once they sought it.
But Buoy holds a great deal of potential beyond simply helping individuals make more informed decisions about their personal symptoms.
Along with facilitating that kind of healthcare pathway, Buoy also sees its tool as new way to gather huge amounts of research that could otherwise be missed in traditional studies.
“For us, this is something that is a moonshot. Even thinking about the research possibilities just makes me glow, because as we are able to track people over time, we could be looking at a huge potential prospective study,” said Le.
Collection of data from the 5,000 stealth users of Buoy has already revealed a surprise: people frequently need help with mental health symptoms, too.
“We cover the entire DSM-V, and we saw a lot of people asking Buoy about things like depression and suicidal thoughts. That was very powerful for us and also very heartbreaking, but also inspiring because we saw a real opportunity to help someone who may not be open to seeking help from a real person, but felt comfortable asking Buoy,” said Le.
These promising early results mean Buoy is already well on its way to forming key partnerships.
[Buoy has plans for] partnerships with health systems and research institutions to organizations with resources for patients and their families. The company is already in the process of formalizing a few deals, including one with Boston hospital system Steward Health.
“Buoy represents a groundbreaking idea in the emergence of on-demand health care,” Steward Health spokesperson Jeff Hall said in a statement. “We are excited to be working with Buoy to identify ways in which this innovative technology will be used to benefit Steward Health Care’s existing and future patients, physicians, and frontline caregivers.”
With such strong early results, we look forward to hearing whether Buoy has a strategy for the 50+ market.
Today at SXSW: Workshop on Empathy in Design
The central mission of Longevity Network is to spur innovation in products and services for the 50+ market, with the belief that technology can improve or enable better, healthier living for this growing demographic in everything from aging in place to caregiver quality of life.
A workshop sponsored by Microsoft this afternoon at SXSW addresses a crucial tenet for this kind of innovation: developing empathy for diverse kinds of users.
Humans have been at the center of design practices for a long time. Although product makers and designers have always sought to understand their customers, they often miss an opportunity. By including a diverse set of people in the design process with a range of physical and cognitive abilities, we can start to understand how empathy and diversity fuel innovation. In this participatory session, we will explore important considerations and practical approaches to uncover universal human motivations, identify barriers and exclusion that impact participation, and glean insight from how people adapt.
The workshop promises to be interactive and is part of a larger initiative at Microsoft to encourage this kind of inclusivity in design innovation.
[Participants will] build off one another's experiences and stress test...ideas to evolve our thinking along the way. Come ready to participate and learn how this inclusive design practice can impact your work - even if you're not in the business of making products.
To learn more about Microsoft’s approach to inclusive design visit their webpage on inclusive design here.
This event is part of the Social Good Hub, a creative content venue curated and produced by SXSW Eco. See the full schedule of programming and special events here.
Entrepreneur of the Week: Emma Yang, Timeless
Timeless is a mobile app aimed at improving the lives of those suffering from Alzheimer's, like 13-year-old Emma Yang's grandmother who was her inspiration for designing the app. Timeless is currently a functional prototype but Emma has plans to crowdsource the funds to make it a fully functional app (see last question in the interview).
We spoke with Emma about Timeless and the opportunities she sees in the 50+ market.
Longevity Network: What does the Timeless app do?
Emma Yang: Timeless is a simple and easy to use mobile app for Alzheimer’s patients to remember events, stay connected and engaged with friends and family, and to recognize people through automatic Artificial Intelligence based facial recognition technology.
LN: Can you tell us about the your platform/services and how it works?
EY: The key features of Timeless are: Updates (a stream of photos with the names and relationship of the people [e.g. Paul, Brother] tagged in the photo), Photos (a photo album where the pictures are grouped by person), and Identify (where a patient can take a picture of a person and the app identifies him/her by name and relationship in real time). The identification and relationship tagging of the persons are powered by Artificial Intelligence based facial recognition technology. The app also has functions for event reminders and assisted calling and texting. These functions help the patients to remember important events such as family or doctor visits, as well as make it easier for the patients to call friends yet avoid repeated callings as they might forget an earlier call.
Timeless helps Alzheimer’s patients remember and recognize family and friends, connect with loved ones, and cherish the timeless moments in life. The application provides a variety of research-backed solutions that address a wide range of problems caused by the disease that affect the day-to-day life of Alzheimer’s patients. Timeless is also designed to be simple and easy-to-use for patients.
LN: What opportunity did you see that you wanted to address with the creation of Timeless?
EY: After doing extensive market research, I found out that none of the apps on the market related to Alzheimer’s disease are targeted for the patients themselves. The available apps only targeted caregivers seeking help or people who want to learn more about the disease. I wanted to leverage the power of artificial intelligence and mobile technology to help Alzheimer’s patients like my Grandma stay connected with friends and family. Hence, I took up the opportunity and developed an app to close this gap.
LN: Who are your primary users? How can/does Timeless benefit the 50+ population?
EY: The primary users of Timeless is the population with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.
Alzheimer’s disease is a serious problem around the world. Alzheimer’s is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that affects 44 million people worldwide. In the US, one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. The disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the US, affecting more than 5 million Americans. Not only does the disease affect the patient, but also caregivers, including family, friends and care professionals. According to research, people with Alzheimer’s experience problems with forgetting appointments or important events, having difficulty remembering and recognizing people, and difficulty with familiar tasks.
With the functions and features mentioned above, Timeless can not only help the patients remember and connect with their loved ones, it also help them in their daily lives.
LN: How did you assemble your team?
EY: I work on Timeless myself as a single person team. I came up with the idea of Timeless myself, and I also created the feature set, and worked on the creation of the User Interface, user workflow, and did the development of the working prototype myself. However, I am very fortunately to be supported by two very kind experts in the field.
I consulted with Dr. Melissa Kramps, a specialist in the Alzheimer's Disease & Memory Disorders Program at the New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center on the functions and features of the app.
On the technical side, I also collaborated with Mr. Cole Calistra, the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) and his team at Kairos, a human analytics technology startup in Miami which developed the AI facial recognition platform which i am leveraging to implement the facial recognition aspect of the app.
LN: How has Timeless differed from what you envisioned it would be (if at all)?
EY: The design and development process of Timeless mostly fall into my expectation. The greatest challenge is testing and adoption of the app by the patients and their family and friends. In order to address this, I am reaching out to relevant organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association to seek assistance to gain access to patients for testing. I am also developing plan to create awareness and encourage adoption through marketing campaigns, and raise awareness through organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association.
LN: What do you wish you had known before developing Timeless?
EY: The challenge of getting access to patients and their family and friends who can provide help in testing and advice on feature set of the application.
The challenge of raising funds for an application which goal is for a social cause, rather than for profit.
LN: What most excites you about the aging and or health technology market?
EY: Mobile is an ubiquitous platform which changes everyone’s life. However, vast majority of the available applications are targeted at the younger user population. Seldom would there be applications that are designed with the need of the elderly in mind, let alone those with illness and purpose is to make their daily life easier. I hope Timeless can change that.
LN: What is your best piece of advice for startups who want to include or target the 50+ market?
EY: Spend the time and effort to thoroughly understand the patient’s need. Conduct research and talk to actual patients and observe their daily life to determine what will be useful for them.
LN: Do you have any other products in development?
EY: Timeless is the only product that I am working on now. I am focusing on taking it from a prototype to a real product. I’m working on further improving the User Interface and User Experience, consulting with my mentor (Mr. Cole Calistra) on implementing the backend infrastructure for the app for cloud based data storage interaction, and also working with Dr. Kramps on arranging for patients to test the app.
LN: Where do you see yourself and Timeless five years from now?
EY: Five years from now, I would like to see Timeless being used by Alzheimer’s patients around the world. I equally hope that by then we will have found a way to cure Alzheimer’s disease and Timeless will pivot to be a tool that help those who are in transition stage between diagnosis and treatment. Personally I would like to study computer science, artificial intelligence, and machine learning by the time I go to college in 5 years. I am also especially interested in the intersection between health care, biology and computer science and would eventually like to explore and potentially pursue a career in that area.
LN: What health or wellness technology do you hope exists by the time you retire?
EY: From observing the daily lives of my grandparents, I hope that there will be automated robotics or systems which can take care of the elderly’s daily life, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I noticed that getting customized, round the clock help for daily matters is the most challenging area where all elderly persons and their family routinely face.
LN: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
EY: As mentioned earlier, I’m in the process of taking Timeless from a prototype to a real application. I’m planning to raise fund for the development through crowdfunding in a few months. The funds will be used for design improvement, hosting of infrastructure (such as databases) for Timeless, marketing and ongoing maintenance of the app.
I recently created a Timeless Facebook page for the sharing of Alzheimer’s and Dementia related information and innovation, and updates on the development of the app.
It’ll be great if you and any of your readers can “like” the page and share it with your community.
An 8th grader, 13-year-old Emma is passionate about science, computer science, and technology innovation. In 2015, Emma won first place in the US and second place globally in Technovation Challenge, a global technology entrepreneurship competition for girls, out of 400 teams from more than 60 countries. Emma believes that technology can be used to help solve problems and make the world a better place. She is a strong advocate for STEM and would like to encourage all girls to explore their interests in science and technology. In 2016, Emma was named one of New York’s 10 Under 20 Young Innovators to Watch and Crain’s New York’s 20 Under 20 2016
Emma excels academically and is a Davidson Young Scholar, a member of Johns Hopkins University Julian C. Stanley Study of Exceptional Talent (SET), and Wolfram Research’s youngest and first ever middle school mentee of the Wolfram Mentorship Program. Emma was the youngest participant of the White House’s Opportunity Project, representing Wolfram Research in bringing the power of the Wolfram Language to solve problems using Open Data.
Emma was awarded the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Space Camp Scholarship, Stony Brook International Piano Festival Scholarship, and the Michael Perelstein Memorial Discover Your Passion Scholarship for her outstanding achievement in Music and STEM. Most recently, Emma was selected as one of 500 exceptional students globally to participate in the Junior Academy of the New York Academy of Sciences solving the world’s greatest challenges. Emma is also a member of the school Robotics team who will be participating in the FIRST Robotics Competition.
An enthusiastic coder, Emma’s proficient in MIT AppInventor, HTML/CSS, Java and Swift. Her goal is to develop apps that help solve the world’s challenges. She is working on ConcussionChecker – an app to help detect concussion early and Timeless – an app to help Alzheimer patients live better lives. She plans to publish these apps on the App Store to benefit the community and beyond.
Emma is also a young classical pianist and she has performed at Carnegie Hall twice. Winner of Hong Kong Music Festival, American Protégé International Music Talent Competition, Rondo Young Artist Vanguard Competition, and Crescendo International Music Competition, Emma is an active participant in school and local music events.
Born in Hong Kong and lived there for ten years, Emma comes from a family with diverse background from China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Among her favorite foods are Chinese dumplings, Vietnamese Pho, Hainanese chicken rice, and lasagna. Fluent in English, Cantonese, Mandarin and learning German and French, Emma’s goal is to speak as many languages as possible. In her free time, Emma enjoys coding, reading, biking, and going to movies with Dad.
Emma is an introvert and enjoys being one. Recently, Emma started writing for Quiet Revolution‘s Quiet Diaries, a space for young voices to post their perspectives on life.
7 Deals Announced or Made at HIMSS 2017
MobiHealth News called last week’s HIMSS Annual Conference “the biggest week [of the year] in Health IT” and highlighted some of the deals that made the week particularly big for some companies.
Samsung - American Well Partnership
Telemedicine provider American Well and Samsung Electronics are collaborating to create a new level of healthcare service in regards to consumer reach, interoperability and accessibility, but they aren’t yet disclosing what that end user experience will look like. While both companies were short on specifics, they described the partnership as one presenting a “tremendous opportunity,” that will leverage Samsung’s leadership position in consumer electronics with American Well’s enterprise telehealth service called the Exchange, which the company launched last year.
Medfusion Acquires NexSched
Patient engagement company Medfusion acquired NexSched, which makes a patient-facing appointment scheduling tool. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Teladoc Expands Partnership with Kinsa
Teladoc became the latest telemedicine company to incorporate connected devices into its offering via an expanded partnership with FDA-cleared connected thermometer company Kinsa. The Teladoc app will automatically detect the Kinsa app on a user’s phone, and guide the user to Kinsa. Users can also import up to 10 days of temperature readings into the Teladoc platform from the Kinsa app. That data goes into the physician's view of the patient's health record.
Imprivata - Connected Technology Solutions Partnership Adds Biometrics to Check-in Kiosks
Healthcare IT security company Imprivata has partnered with Connected Technology Solutions to allow self-service, single patient registration at CTS check-in kiosks. Imprivata’s identifier technology is called PatientSecure and enables hospitals to use biometric palm vein scans at CTS kiosks to verify medical information, insurance validation and co-pay collection without the need for doctors or patients to manually enter the information.
“The use of biometric identification at registration kiosks is a great addition to our solutions and helps transform the entire registration and intake process, working directly with the Epic EHR,” Marc Avallone, vice president of sales and business development at CTS said in a statement. “Integrating Imprivata PatientSecure palm-vein biometrics with our kiosks has sped up the patient identification process and assures positive patient identification every time. This improves patient safety, overall registration throughput, and ultimately enhances the entire patient experience.”
Praxify Officially Launches Following Successful Pilot
Healthcare IT company Praxify, which makes apps and software to augment EHRs and improve workflow, officially launched at HIMSS following a successful pilot with Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami. Praxify’s two products are MIRA, a mobile app designed to improve EHR usability by collecting, analyzing and displaying relevant patient data on an easy to read interface; and SIYA, a care management platform for payers, providers and patients. At Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, doctors tried out MIRA (which also features voice-activated digital assistance and adaptable templates), and reported a 30 percent uptick in their documentation and order creation speed. Praxify is also an Apple Mobility Partner and has worked with the tech giant to design the product to fit specifically for a doctor’s mobile workflow.
Tactio Health and Garmin Partner with a Focus on Senior Citizens
Montreal-based Tactio Health, which makes mobile apps and device and app-connected platforms to enable remote monitoring, is working with wearable company Garmin to develop a telehealth program specifically focused on senior citizens. Garmin and Tactio have collaborated since 2014, and after running some pilots to identify which criteria are most important to seniors (such as a unified user experience and long battery life), the two companies have created a product that directly integrates vivofit 3 wearables with the TactioRPM patient apps. The single, unified offering allows payers, providers and pharma to conduct health and wellness monitoring programs with a single patient-facing app.
Salesforce Integrates Validic’s Platform to Offer a Health/Wellness Application of its CRM
Salesforce is now integrating Validic’s personal health data connectivity platform with its Customer Relationship Management system and Salesforce HealthCloud. The integration adds a “Health/Wellness” application into the CRM, so Salesforce can securely view Validic-provided data from over 400 personal health devices – such as those that track sleep, weight and biometrics from remote chronic condition monitoring – through displays stored natively in the Salesforce interface, allowing for care teams to manage patient populations in near real-time.