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Blog - How are SMEs using tech to offer a better quality of life to the elderly?

Our ageing population is growing, and support for those wanting to continue living independently into old-age is an area of increasing demand on the UK’s health and care system. As part of our Future of Housing blog, we asked Dr Amer Fasihi and Rupinder Singh of Kraydel, an IoT company, whose innovative device (TV-top hub and remote control) enables better health, wellbeing and independence at home, to tell us their story and share some thoughts on how new digital technologies could change the way we all live in the future.

The origins of Kraydel

The Kraydel story is a classic case of paths crossing in the right place at the right time. Following 10 years in the private sector which included seven at Arthur Andersen, Rupinder Singh had then spent nearly 15 years working within the NHS ecosystem, where he applied his entrepreneurial acumen to define new care models and establish how they might be better integrated into the fabric of daily life.

Meanwhile, Dr Amer Fasihi’s journey covered 12 years at GlaxoSmithKline where he was developing analytic approaches for the pharmaceutical industry, before heading to IBM for six years to work on Watson, their healthcare and life sciences AI. The focus of this work was on how algorithms and smart machine learning can address smart cities and smart healthcare.

So far, so hypothetical. But then something changed for Amer. His dad became unwell. “My dad was suffering from congestive heart failure”, he explains. “So, in 2016 I left IBM to set up my own company around health monitoring and that was largely so I could get the data around his blood pressure. I was looking into using digital technology for medical monitoring and, when I met Kraydel, they were looking into environmental monitoring, but with that wellbeing, focus baked in. For me, it felt logical to bring both of those companies together.”

The plan: to develop a technology platform that would help Amer’s dad – and others in a similar situation – to continue living independently.

Kraydel helping the elderly to continue living independently

It would be easy at this stage to jump straight to the technology. Solutions developed to encourage independent living are increasing in numbers, but too many companies forget to put people – and, more specifically, connection – at the heart of their product, which might be why adoption levels are so low. Kraydel determined not to make that mistake, so they built their product around the premise that it is there to enhance and jump-start connection – not replace it.

That’s because, as Amer explains, a key factor to ageing well – one that’s actually been measured and documented – is resilience. And resilience in this instance is a composite of three critical measures:• Social connectedness – how plugged into social groups, ideally multi-generational, is the individual?• Outside interests – how engaged and busy is the individual? Do they have hobbies or interests that they actively pursue and engage with?• An optimistic outlook – is the individual a glass-half-full kind of person? And of these three key factors, the first two are intrinsically tied to connection. Which is why Kraydel is in fact informed by a profound purity of purpose; to deliver a completely unique and user-friendly way to have a conversation with friends and family.

The technology that makes Kraydel possible…

Simplicity – especially when it comes to technology – while easy to aspire to, can all too often get messy in development. One false avenue Kraydel very nearly ventured down was the classic “forgetting they themselves were not the audience” track. Cool devices and apps are all well and good, but if you’re elderly and, in all likelihood less mobile, then ‘cool’ isn’t really the ticket.

“Our co-design group in Brighton told us quite clearly, no”, laughs Rupinder. “You can’t have a remote control that might end up down the back of the sofa and, worst case scenario ends up injuring someone when they try to fish it out. Considerations like that aren’t always immediately obvious at the development stage, so we did a lot of work to get that right.”

This work eventually led to a very simple, blocky remote (no danger of that getting wedged anywhere) with the bare minimum of large and easily identifiable control buttons which managed a gracefully intuitive and uncomplicated TV app interface, which is all hooked up to a set-top camera.

There’s also a mobile app that can be installed on all friends and family devices. This allows everyone in the individual’s network to dial in, with the call being punched directly through the TV. A simple yes/no command lets the individual answer the call and begin talking to their friend or relation. And, the other way around, should the individual wish to dial out, the TV app presents options in an unfussy gallery mode letting them scroll left and right through options, with a yes/no, back/forwards approach to keeping things uncomplicated.

Another critical element to the development was the desire to work towards full integration with any other IoT devices in the home, eventually making Kraydel an IoT home hub.

Kraydel’s cost-saving impact on delivering wellbeing

Having developed both the hardware and the software, Kraydel is now being rolled out in a number of ways, with fascinatingly far-reaching impacts on both the delivery of wellbeing and the associated costs. And these aren’t vague finger-in-the-wind benefits – the developers have a wealth of data that reinforces just how significantly their technology could streamline the delivery of care.

For example, the reminder function that gives individuals a gentle prompt when they need to take their medication – currently 30% of acute admissions for those aged 70 and over is because they’ve forgotten to take their medication. If, as a most conservative estimate, the app could reduce that figure by just 2%, over 10 years that would produce a saving of over half a billion pounds. And that’s before factoring in further costs accrued through secondary issue brought about by prolonged stays in hospital.

Another example is a current project being planned to support Stroke Units in the NHS. With 100,000 people each year suffering from stroke, and 30,000 of those patients then being placed on a rehab pathway that normally necessitates them having to come back into hospital – frequently a significant struggle – Kraydel is perfectly placed to help facilitate that care in the home. Which, as well as obviously being a better experience for the patient, could also reduce the cost of the unit delivering rehab by as much as 30%.

A vision of the future through Kraydel’s lens

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg. Devices such as the one Kraydel have developed could deliver so much more as they become integral parts of a housing industry that is only just starting to be aware of the opportunities to weave wellbeing into the very brickwork of our homes.

Imagine how much more connected a block of residents might feel if they could speak to each other as simply and intuitively as our children now chat to Alexa? Or how valued grandparents might feel if they could watch a film together with their grandkids any given day, regardless of where those grandkids are geographical? What if domiciliary care providers were set up to be alerted to changes in behaviour patterns of patients that might be indicative of a decline in health? This could flag a priority investigation, enabling speedier responses to possible crises?

And, as the technology evolves, and further conversations with different care providers at had, it’s becoming clear that the work being done by Kraydel, and others like them, is opening up avenues of care and support to a broader demographic than originally considered. New mothers perhaps, with not enough free hands to make a call, being able to quickly and easily reach out to their support network via the TV? Others with challenging mobility issues? Watch this space – what’s most exciting for us in our Future of Housing programme here at Connected Places Catapult is seeing how stakeholders in the Housing ecosystem can inspire and inform each other to develop exciting solutions across the whole spectrum.

Rupinder and Amer, meanwhile, are both keen to stress that, for all its IoT credentials, Kraydel is actually about something much more deep-rooted in us all – the pursuit of peace of mind. And in a world becoming ever more hectic, their hope is that their technology will help reinvigorate that friends-and-family connective tissue that lies at the heart of our social, and individual, wellbeing.

Rupinder Singh is Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer, and Amer Fasihi is Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at Kraydel. You can follow Kraydel on Twitter here @KraydelCares.

This blog is one in a series and is part of our new Future of Housing programme. Find out more about our work in this area by visiting our new Future of Housing knowledge hub.

Are you interested in sharing your insights in this area? If you’d like to let us know about some of the projects you’re working on in this space, please email futureofhousing@cp.catapult.org.uk.

Our Future of Housing blog series is intended as a platform for open debate. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the Connected Places Catapult.

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