Imagine getting this e-mail: “Grandma walked 41 percent less this week than she did the last three weeks. You might want to check and see if something is wrong with her.”
It might sound a bit precise for a message sent from your sibling or grandmother’s caregiver. Forty one percent? Sure, it’s helpful to know. I know I’d be calling my grandmother to check in on her. But how could someone find the time to calculate that? It sounds almost robotic, and well, it is.
GreatCall, which offers devices that keep the elderly in touch with their caregivers, has partnered with an artificial intelligence company to send automated reports to concerned children and grandchildren. The idea is to empower the elderly to live more safely on their own, while easing the worries of caregivers.
Automated Insights, which specializes in turning mountains of data into plain English, will be providing weekly recaps to caregivers, so they have a better idea of how their loved one is doing. While a grandparent might at times be reluctant to share bad news, the device and automated emails never mince words. Automated Insights’ algorithm is currently used for generating everything from snarky fantasy football recaps to write-ups on Edmunds.com.
Here’s one sample of an update a caregiver might receive:
Chris actively used his 5Star for six days last week and could contact help if needed during that time. He spent time at the farmer’s market, his daughter’s home and the coffee shop. He did a great job of charging the device regularly, never letting the battery power fall to a low level.
With its 5Star devices, GreatCall can use GPS to pinpoint a user’s location. A caregiver could input common locations, such as a doctor’s office, grocery store or friend’s house, to be better aware of if the elderly person is getting out regularly. It would be possible to track whether a loved one made it to their doctor’s appointments, or hadn’t been food-shopping in a few weeks.
In theory, for a senior citizen willing to sacrifice some privacy about their comings and goings, they’d be able to be more independent and live alone longer than caregivers might otherwise be comfortable with.
GreatCall offers a simplified smartphone and flip phone that are designed to appeal to older users. There’s also the Splash, a simple monitor that can even be worn in the shower. It has only one external button, so users can contact medical help.
“There’s this common misperception that everyone is walking around with iPhones or [Samsung] Galaxies,” GreatCall chief executive David Inns said. “When you look at the portion of the older population that actually is the most vulnerable and has the highest health care costs and are the ones who actually needs services to keep them connected and safe with health solutions, they’re exactly the ones who aren’t adopting smartphone technology quickly.”
Between wearable technologies, sensors and the Internet, there’s room for even more opportunity in the space. Accelerometers, which are present in smartphones, could likely detect if a user had fallen. While now GreatCall and Automated Insights provide information on if a device is being used, and where it’s being taken, there are plans to do more.
“We’re able to show some of the promise of what is going to be possible in the future as we get access to data that’s available on other devices, sensors or things of that nature,” Automated Insights chief executive Robbie Allen said of the partnership. “We’re able to tell a story about data in a way that’s engaging and provides a layer of value on top of that data.”