(Originally published on Blogcritics.org)
Two entrepreneurs at SXSW V2V, a four-day (July 19-22) educational event in Las Vegas for startups, demonstrated hardware and software solutions for “Mom.” They work for “Dad,” too, but as one presenter pointed out, “We love you, Dad, but, we’ll do anything for Mom.” The products aim at helping living-on-their-own seniors to stay safe and healthy.
Presentations were part of the V2Venture series of events at which early stage startups can pitch their product and/or services to a panel of industry-expert judges. Judges evaluate the startup ideas on the basis of creativity, potential, goodness, functionality, and team.
Presenters receive feedback on their pitches, products, and business plans. The two “Mom tech” projects that impressed me were the UnaliWear Kanega wristwatch and the WithMe app.
The Watch Said What?
UnaliWear, of Austin, Texas, won the best-in-category award for Health and Wearables. Jean Anne Booth, UnaliWear CEO, explained that she developed the Unaliwear Kanega wristwatch because her 80-year-old mom refused to wear existing products. “She thought the ‘I can’t get up’ type products were ugly,” Booth said. “And, she said that ‘If I wear one of them people will think I’m old.’”
Booth’s solution is discreet and stylish, and does not require the use of a cell phone, which many older people shun. It uses cellular, Wi-Fi, and GPS communications, continuous speech recognition, and a nine-axis accelerometer for fall detection. Her product looks like a classically styled wristwatch, yet provides emergency service for falls, medication reminders, and a guard against wandering.
Unlike similar products, you never have to take it off. Booth explained that the watch is waterproof. “You can wear it in the shower,” she said, “which is where many falls for seniors happen. If you don’t have to take it off, you don’t have to worry about remembering to put it back on.”
The device incorporates artificial intelligence (AI) which learns the wearer’s lifestyle. Should the senior take a wrong turn on the way home, the watch asks if the senior needs directions. That’s right, the watch talks to you and you talk to it. Booth demonstrated its speech capabilities and they were very impressive. The name “UnaliWear Kanega” derives from Cherokee and means “the friend that speaks to you.”
The watch can also communicate with caregivers. It updates at night, while the wearer is sleeping. Exactly what information the caregivers receive is completely customizable and secure, using Verizon’s HIPAA-compliant cloud.
Stay With Me
As much as we’d like to stay with our aging parents, it’s not always possible. Using cell phone technology, Assure Technologies founder Kara Kytle thinks she’s found the next best thing.
Personally, when I’m traveling, I check in with my daughter by texting her when I reach my destination or at stops along the way to let her know that I’m OK. Kytle’s WithMe app automates this process on a daily basis.
She began her presentation with a touch of humor, incorporating The Beatles’ lyrics, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, When I’m sixty-four?” and an endorsement from a user who says, “I enjoy getting daily virtual hugs, even though I’m not demented yet.”
Kytle explained that WithMe sends daily reminders to check in. To check in the senior just taps the notification, with an option to customize the message.
The check-in notification can be sent to one or more people. If the user does not check in, the loved ones are alerted.
The app is free and available for both iOS and Android phones and tablets.
Kytle assured the judges that there are no hidden costs or surprise charges. After the app gains a foothold, her company will offer additional services on a subscription basis. For more information, visit the app website or watch the video below.