A startup company is touting its system for remotely monitoring elderly people with chronic illnesses as having three advantages over existing products: elegant design, a focus on social connection rather than "fear of death," as the CEO puts it, and price.
Lively, a San Francisco-based startup, is launching its eponymous system Tuesday, combining a series of wireless sensors, a data-collection hub and biweekly printed mailers that serve as kind of an analog social network.
A basic setup, to measure medication compliance, food and drink intake and general activity outside the home, will cost $149 up front with a monthly service fee of $19.95, though the company is taking pre-orders on crowdfunding site Kickstarter beginning Tuesday for $99, including one month of free service. (Like stress sensor startup Zinc, Lively is also is participating in a business accelerator from PCH International, an Irish-Chinese firm specializing in the launch of consumer electronics accessories.)
The disclike sensors—perhaps evoking the Misfit Shine in terms of form—are passive sensors with embedded communications chips. The base station, which has no wires other than an electrical cord and no on-off switch, was designed by Fred Bould of Bould Design, who, among other things, styled the Nest smart home thermostat. An embedded cellular link sends data to Lively's cloud server.
But unlike the Misfit Shine or other personal monitoring devices, the sensors go on objects, not people. Co-founder and CEO Iggy Fanlo says participants in a pilot test of Lively complained that products for the 75-plus set often are not nicely designed. "We want something that's beautiful that doesn't stigmatize you as old and frail," he tells MobiHealthNews.
One type of sensor goes on pill boxes, while another measures whether people are eating and drinking on a regular schedule by indicating when refrigerator or pantry doors are opened, both using accelerometers. A third variety is a key fob with a Bluetooth Low Energy transmitter than lets the server know when the user is out of range, typically 125 meters (about 410 feet). This measure acts as a proxy for indicating when the person has left home.
Additional sensors can be placed elsewhere, such as inside a car door to show when someone who might not be a safe driver got in the car or on a telephone handset to suggest, for example, that the elderly person called to make a doctor's appointment.
"This is a great way to collect general health activities," Fanlo says. Caregivers, family members and neighbors can log into a website to see the data, plus Lively can automatically send alerts and reminders to designated people.
A second element of the Lively system is kind of an offline version of a social network to help "close the loop," as Fanlo puts in. Anyone the older person wants to hear from on a regular basis receives a weekly email asking them to contribute content such as photos and status updates. Every two weeks, Lively produces and mails LivelyGram, a customized, printed photo booklet listing and depicting what all these people are up to.
This, according to Fanlo, helps relieve tension in relationships between the elderly and their loved ones by providing information both want without adult children feeling like they are bugging their parents and without older people feeling like a burden on their families or seeming to be a burden on the same people.
"If you put the system in, it solves either problem," Fanlo says. "At the end of the day, what Lively does is create connections."
Fanlo says focus groups helped Lively identify four "pain points" with eldercare, two affecting elder adults living along and the other two having a bearing on the "sandwich generation" of people both raising children and caring for their aging parents.
First off, the average age of someone entering a nursing home today is close to 90, up from 74 three decades ago, according to Fanlo. Plus, extended families are spread all over the nation and the world, causing some older people to feel more isolated. "They would love more connection to their family, and they have less," Fanlo says.
For caregivers, many are experiencing anxiety and perhaps even guilt about being far from their parents. Also, according to Fanlo, they want their own children to connect with their grandparents.