Healthcare Technology Featured Article

March 10, 2014

MWC 2014: As the Mobile World Turns-Part 1

For those of you who have followed our extensive coverage of Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, you are aware the theme for this year’s gathering, “What’s Next,” was spot on.  From unusual and compelling keynotes by event newbies Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and IBM CEO Virginia Rometty, to the display of wares by roughly 1800 exhibitors and the scintillating conversation with a select number of the almost 90,00 attendees - the event was exhausting and illuminating.

In navigating my way through the show, I took a page from a Dr. Seuss favorite, Oh, the Places You’ll Go, where he says, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” Fortunately, thanks to a bit of planning and happenstance the direction chosen allowed me a good window on where we are going from here.

As the headline says this is part one of what will be a series on the technologies, new business models and service offerings that stand a high probability of moving to the mobile world’s center stage.

The place I’d like to start is with what I believe is likely to emerge as a hot space. It is so nascent that it has yet to have a commonly used name. Hence, I will call it as it was described to me by Herzliya, Israel-based Essence, “Smart Care.”   

Smart Care alternative to assisted living

Expanding out from its roots in the home security and home automation markets, Essence has developed an interesting take on a problem facing “The Squeezed Generation.” For those not familiar, this term applies to Baby Boomers who not only are supporting their offspring but are also the primary caregivers for their parents. The challenge, particularly for those whose parents do not live with them or in very close proximity, is that mom and dad either cannot afford the move to assisted living facilities, or just are not emotionally prepared to be transplanted. Smart Care provides an answer to this problem.

Daniela Permutter, head of marketing and Amit Kroll, marketing strategy director at Essence, described their solution to this challenge and provided a demo of how it works and its value.       

Essence @ Mobile World Congress

“We are the largest home security ODM in the home security space in Europe with our proprietary system. We are a major player in what we call the connected home sector, providing an M2M cloud-based solution,” noted Kroll. “We have leveraged our portfolio of home surveillance/monitoring and home automation solutions to develope the Care@Home solution that enables the elderly to age at home independently with peace of mind. We employed a sophisticated algorithm and analytic engine to enable real-time construction of an individual user profile. With this we create a detailed view of an individual’s daily routine. Using our cameras and sensors the system detects anomalies in behavior and alerts a primary caregiver on their personal devices when certain parameters have been exceeded.”

Perlmutter explained that, “This alerts the primary caregiver(s) if the person for whom they are looking after, who has memory issues for example, has gone outside to do something like get the morning newspaper but has not returned within a specific time.”

I came up with an example where an electric stove-top has not been turned off. Let’s say mom or dad is in the kitchen, a scenario could be constructed where a caregiver could notify a healthcare provider in the residence or even shut off the stove remotely.

We went through a series of other life-saving scenarios, and I am sure without much prompting you can envision many of your own.  Thanks to this type of technology the possibilities are extensive. This includes such things as assuring falls can be accounted for and reacted to without a person having to activate an alarm—a growing concern since in many such instances the victim is unable to activate old-style wearable technology designed to bring help. Another benefit is that the system gets smarter over time as it collects more information. 

As someone familiar with the challenges of stay-in-home care of family members who are not in very close proximity, the value of this cloud-based service is almost incalculable. Seeing Care@Home in action only serves as confirmation of its value.

This is not to minimize what some may say is a level of intrusiveness that causes them concern. While I appreciate that constant in-home surveillance does have its downsides, my belief is that a poll of primary caregivers would find that once the solution is explained that the peace of mind provided would trump any objections.  With assurances that info cannot be shared except with those with authorized and secured access, and that actions on alerts and insights are not so frequent to make those being cared for suspicious, it is hard to put a value on several aspects of this type of solution that will be offered as a service.   

The first is the obvious peace of mind of knowing you do not have to rely on somebody else to notify you when there are potential problems or a crisis is occurring.  Second, and not inconsequential, is mitigating the financial and emotional costs of not having to move people into expensive and unfamiliar surroundings where they are being watched by strangers (and possibly a facility’s own surveillance system).  Third is the value of being able to summon in-home or remote help faster and with an increased level of assurance that help is on the way. And, there is the ability for using the integration with home automation systems of remotely removing what could be a danger.

Is this a window on the future?  I think this is an unqualified yes. As more and more people enter their “Golden Years,” this is going to be an attractive alternative for consideration. It also is an area that service providers are sure to evaluate given their already intense interest in the revenue capabilities of the connected home.  As Kroll stated, “Essence is all about developing solutions that improve everyday life.”  It is a terrific example where the Internet of Things (IoT) combined with the cloud and mobility has a tremendous amount to offer.       

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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