The world’s aging population continues to grow. Today, in the U.S. alone, there are more than 46 million people 65 years and older, accounting for around 15 percent of the population. This is expected to swell to 20 percent by the year 2030.
One of the main decisions that we are bound to make as we get older is whether or not we will continue to live at our own place. Unsurprisingly, studies have shown that nearly 90 percent of seniors living in the U.S. prefer to grow old in their own homes. Despite the obvious advantages of growing old at home, or what is now dubbed “aging in place,” safety remains a major concern.
As many caregivers would tell you, having an elderly family member living alone could cause a great deal of worry over his or her health and safety. Many caregivers try to find some relief by using video cameras to regularly check on their aging seniors. Though, seniors often perceive this solution as a violation of their privacy – something they tried to preserve by choosing to live at home in the first place. This prompted a company called SensorsCall to develop CareAlert, a non-intrusive, home monitoring system that allows long-distance caregivers to stay aware of their aging seniors’ environments, activities, and overall well-being by promptly alerting them to any potential safety issues.
We at Medgadget had the chance to interview Fereydoun Taslimi, the CEO of SensorsCall, to learn more about their new system, CareAlert.
Kenan Raddawi, MD, Medgadget: Can you please give our readers a brief overview of CareAlert, such as how the system works, what components it includes, and what features it has to offer?
Fereydoun Taslimi: CareAlert was developed after a frantic late-night visit to check on an aging parent after phone calls went unanswered for hours. CareAlert is the first of its kind, a non-invasive well-being monitor system designed to provide family members and caregivers with regular safety updates on their seniors, who choose to live alone. Our system collects information about the environment it is placed in, and by utilizing artificial intelligence and deep learning, CareAlert is capable of learning patterns, predicting outcomes and providing insightful analysis to the end-user.
It takes about one week for the system to learn the routines of the inhabitants. During this period, CareAlert’s app displays the interpretations it has deduced from the information gathered by the sensors, such as getting up, going to the bathroom, etc. Subsequently, the caregivers are given a chance to adjust the anomalies and train the system to reduce any false positives. For example, if the senior normally wakes up 2-3 times in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and this is considered normal, the action can be marked as such and no notification will be generated.
On top of everything, CareAlert allows direct communication through the CareAlert speaker using our app on IOS or Android. Also, this app could be used by the caregiver to record a short reminder (to take medication, about a doctor’s appt, etc.) and schedule it for delivery in their own voice via the CareAlert devices. Over time, we plan to offer many more features using the same hardware.
Medgadget: How easy is it to install and set up CareAlert?
Taslimi: It is extremely easy to set-up the CareAlert system. All a caregiver has to do is plug in a minimum of three units throughout the home: one into a wall outlet in the bathroom, one in the bedroom, and one in the living room/kitchen area. Each unit looks and acts like an emergency light. The caregiver would then use the CareAlert app to add and specify the location of each sensor. Once this is completed, the sensors will automatically start working together to monitor their surroundings.
Medgadget: Could CareAlert be integrated with other smart caregiving devices, such as automated pill dispensers, fall detection sensors, etc.?
Taslimi: CareAlert could be integrated with other smart caregiving devices, as long as those devices allow 3rd party integration. At the moment, CareAlert works with Google Assistant, Alexa, Cortana, and Apple HomeKit. However, there is an opportunity to use the activities detected by CareAlert to trigger other smart home devices. For example, if a CareAlert sensor placed in the bathroom or kitchen detected a movement in the dark, it could signal to a smart light bulb to switch on, reducing the potential for a senior to trip in the dark or walk into a wall. In the future, the potential for features like this is unlimited.
Medgadget: Can a user request help during emergency situations? Do you believe CareAlert could replace, or work in tandem with, personal emergency response (PERS) pendants?
Taslimi: A user would not be able to place a call for help using CareAlert during an emergency. However, CareAlert could help a caregiver detect if an accident might have happened. For instance, if CareAlert detected the sound of a loud thud, and following this sound, there was no movement for several minutes; this anomaly would trigger an alert via the app to the caregiver so he or she could check in on the senior.
It is possible that, down the road, CareAlert could integrate with wearable devices to obtain more information, such as heart rate or skin temperature, and report if it found the number abnormal.
Medgadget: Does CareAlert work if there is more than one person living in the same place?
Taslimi: A senior does not have to live alone in the home for CareAlert to be effective. It is recommended that more devices be installed throughout the home in a multi-person household. As long as there are sufficient devices, CareAlert could still detect normal movements and household habits.
Medgadget: There are several other companies who offer passive well-being monitoring systems, such as TrueSense and Zanthoin. How does CareAlert compare to these systems, and what sets it apart?
Taslimi: TrueSense, Zanthoin, and similar devices use individual specialized sensors (sensors for the bed, doors, etc.) We at Sensorcall are concentrating on utilizing machine learning in order to use a minimum number of sensors to map out events.
Medgadget: How much would each sensor cost, and how many do you need to install to cover an average home? Are there any monthly fees or contractual obligations?
Taslimi: We plan to offer a single sensor for $140 and three for $350. The first year of monitoring will be free of charge. Afterwards, we plan to charge just $20/month or $200/year.
Medgadget: It appears that CareAlert has the potential to collect a significant amount of information about its users with data privacy becoming a potential concern. Can you tell us more about how you plan to secure the data collected by CareAlert and protect your users’ privacy?
Taslimi: The data collected by CareAlert is not stored in the cloud for any extended period of time. As the movement and sounds of the home are collected, they are analyzed in real-time, interpreted, and immediately deleted. CareAlert devices do not record the sound of voices and what people are talking about in their homes. The device is designed to recognize sounds like a toilet flushing, a shower running, or a door closing – common household sounds that could be happening in any home at any given time of day. That is the beauty of CareAlert; it was created to be non-invasive so that seniors could feel comfortable with the device being in their homes.