The business of monitoring the wellbeing of an elderly parent, grandparent, spouse or friend is about to get a whole lot easier.
Coming soon to assisted living or independent living facilities—resident rooms equipped with a network of discreet, barely-detectible sensors that can determine if the resident is in bed or not, can determine anomalies in the climate of the room, can detect if a stove has been left on too long, if there is water on the floor of the bathroom, if the resident has fallen or is experiencing other types of distress, or if the resident is practicing regular hygiene.
Imagine all of that information, and more, being transmitted wirelessly to a “brain” within the room that relays the data to the facility’s staff in real time, alerting them to the potential need to provide immediate assistance. Imagine that information then being sent to families to help them keep track of their loved ones.
Modern technology, and a St. Charles innovative startup company, are making it happen.
The company is SmartCare Consultants, founded by company President Bryan Jefferson, after his own father got sick and Jefferson was unable to check in on him on a regular basis.
Vice President of Sales and Marketing Scott Mosher arrived at the company in a more roundabout way.
“I was downsized from my job as a regional sales manager at a mortgage company that went out of business. Bryan and his business partner Coy Reeves were, and still are, operating a company that builds smart homes and offices for individuals. He was putting an office in my house and we started talking about the future of SmartCare, and what a great need there was for taking care of seniors and keeping them safe. So I volunteered to work with them for awhile and eventually became a partner.”
Think of SmartCare, says Mosher, as a high-tech safety net for seniors. “The system includes a bed pressure sensor, so you know if the resident is on the bed or not. We can track when the person gets out of bed, if they’ve stayed in bed a very long time – whatever is outside the normal pattern of that person. If there is an anomaly, that means someone needs to go check on them. Also, when they get out of bed and stand up, a light turns on beneath the bed. That’s an important feature because studies have shown that just by putting a light there, we can reduce falls by 58 percent. Another sensor looks for water on the bathroom floor. That could mean something is wrong with the sink, or that someone could fall. There’s a heat sensor on the stove, to indicate whether the stove has been left on too long.”
For residents who are at risk of wandering away from or leaving the premises, an RFID (radio frequency identification) -equipped wristband interacts with the doors of the facility, sending a text to staff to say they’re getting too close to the door.
The system is not just smart. It’s really, really smart.
For example, if that RFID wristband lowers to just a couple of feet off the ground, it could mean the wearer has fallen.
“But instead of automatically sounding an alarm, like other technologies,” says Mosher, “our system is smart enough to know when there isn’t an issue. The wristband works with, for example, the bed sensor, to let everyone know the resident is simply lying down, and there’s no need for concern.”
For now, Mosher says SmartCare is concentrating on implementing the systems at elder care facilities, rather than individual homes. He says an upgrade to a SmartCare room in such a facility, when available, would add about $200 per month to the average $3500 monthly cost of a room.
SmartCare is projecting $5 million in gross revenue for 2014.
Says Mosher, “We think in a couple of years it will become mainstream enough and the cost will go down enough that we can put a system into everyone’s home.”
SmartCare is beta testing two rooms right now at a facility in Laurie, Missouri and Mosher says reaction has been overwhelmingly positive among the elder care facilities which have tested the system, and among families concerned with the safety of their loved ones.
As for seniors themselves? Mosher says SmartCare is currently discussing pilot projects at facilities run by St. Louis University and Missouri University in an effort to measure senior reaction, because he notes, “they have concerns about it right now. But they’re starting to realize it’s all about safety. When it’s the difference between lying on the floor for six hours or being cared for immediately, that’s when they start to say, ‘yes, it’s ok.’”