Irish company uses technology to help the elderly stay safe in their homes
Irish health tech start-up HaloCare says it can help older people stay in their homes longer, keep social life together and potentially reduce care costs by using a network of sensors in the home from the front door to the kettle. These devices, which the company describes as discreet, collect live data and track the movement of the occupant of the home – all of which can then be shared with the person’s support network via a dedicated app.
The data is also monitored by HaloCare’s team, based at its hub in Carlow. This team of 25 can then contact the home resident or their family if the information collected at the home appears to deviate from the elderly person’s normal routine.
“It’s about reassuring that this isn’t big-tech surveillance,” says newly appointed chief executive Sarah O’Dwyer, who says the company doesn’t put cameras on-premises.
“This wraps the services around the customer and ensures they are comfortable and have peace of mind.”
The use of artificial intelligence for surveillance right inside the home marks a departure from the traditional panic button model that many older adults had come to rely on.
While O’Dwyer won’t reveal how many customers the company currently supports, HaloCare had 55 customers as of early 2021. The service costs are between 8 and 20 euros per day, depending on the plan.
The company saw a surge in interest because of the pandemic as families were separated due to lockdowns. However, the number of inquiries has not slowed despite the easing of restrictions leading to the possibility of face-to-face family reunification.
“We’ve been amazed at the amount of interest and adoption of this type of technology,” said O’Dwyer.
The number of older people in Ireland has been increasing over the past decade, with the proportion of the population aged 65 and over increasing from 11.6 per cent in 2011 to 14.8 per cent last year, according to the CSO.
During the same period, the proportion of the population aged 0-14 fell from 21.3 percent to 19.9 percent.
HaloCare has also added a virtual social element to the platform after the lockdown caused older people to face periods of isolation. Tablets are presented to customers to facilitate team and family check-in.
“They are having great conversations with our nursing staff here about what is happening in Beautiful city or when [they] Visitors have had – they’re building a real relationship here with our care team,” says O’Dwyer.
Even in the event of internet failures, the service remains connected to the Care Hub. Data is shared from a SIM card in the sensors over a digital cellular network rather than the home’s WiFi.
“If anything happens to a power line, there’s a backup battery,” adds O’Dwyer.
HaloCare is the latest venture from David Walsh and Niall Kelly, who founded the now ubiquitous security company Netwatch.
Also on the company’s board of directors is Dr. Rhona Mahony, former director of the National Maternity Hospital.
O’Dwyer joined the company in December and was unveiled as the company’s chief executive last month, while Walsh, who previously held the position, took on the role of chairman.
After qualifying as a critical care nurse, O’Dwyer then worked on transformational projects in Qatar with healthcare provider Hamad Medical Corp, as well as with St James’s Hospital Group in Malta.
The next step for HaloCare is to adapt its technology to support people with conditions like diabetes and respiratory diseases at home.
There is a proliferation of solutions that bring healthcare directly to consumers’ homes. According to McKinsey, the use of technology to access health care in 2021 was 38 times higher than before the pandemic. Options run from smart apps to monitored.
Amazon announced a partnership with Teladoc in February, allowing users to connect with a healthcare provider through Alexa for issues like allergies or a cold.
HaloCare has also registered interest from the US. Ambassador Claire Cronin recently tweeted that the US government program SelectUSA is looking forward to helping HaloCare enter the market following a visit to their Carlow headquarters.
Despite the chatter in the US, O’Dwyer insists the main focus is on Ireland.
“We want to solidify our product service here in the Irish market and then look to expand into international markets.”
The Internet of Things has opened up new possibilities
The task of taking care of “Mom or Dad” has evolved over the past few years, she writes Adrian Wachler.
The days of an elderly parent moving into their own home seem to be fading while the cost of an inpatient professional care facility can be prohibitively high.
In an era of smart devices and internet access, many middle-aged children of elderly parents are hoping to turn to technology to keep senior citizens in their homes and close to their friends.
In general, the solutions differ between “monitored” services, which usually require a recurring paid subscription, and standalone gadgets.
The latter are one-time purchases like an Apple Watch or a range of different wearable sensors.
These can set off alarms via a parent’s smartphone or internet facility, but are not as thorough or reliable as monitored solutions, as they rely too much on the individual wearer’s ability to use them consistently.
A “monitored” solution, on the other hand, takes a greater degree of uncertainty as it combines permanently installed devices in the home – like a camera or motion sensor – with a professional surveillance service staffed by people elsewhere.
This is the business segment of HaloCare and others around the world.
HaloCare sells a range of gadgets and subscription services that keep basic records of whether a person’s movement around the home is “normal” and can also quickly tell if something seems wrong.
This includes devices such as “fall sensors”, activity sensors, and door or window sensors, as well as smart smoke detectors and water detectors.
For example, if the parent hasn’t left their room for the day or hasn’t returned from a regular day trip, this can trigger a call or notification.
Services start at around €8 per day and go up to around €20 per day.
https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/irish-firm-using-tech-to-help-older-people-stay-safely-in-their-homes-41664327.html Irish company uses technology to help the elderly stay safe in their homes