Alcove allows your family to check in online, providing peace of mind wherever they are.
You don’t stop laughing
when you grow old,
you grow old when you
You don’t stop laughing
when you grow old,
you grow old when you
George Bernard Shaw
Alcove is pioneering independent living and revolutionising care and support.
Our award-winning service pulls together technologies that work, look great and are easy to use to help care providers save money, enhance safeguarding and improve quality of life.
Alcove allows your family to check in online, providing peace of mind wherever they are.
Check on your loved ones remotely giving them continued independence, while you get added reassurance.
We can help you take care of your clients needs more effectively and efficiently.
Improve the quality of the care you provide while reducing costs.
We can help you make the most of life, and stay living independently in your own home for longer.
Keep your independence and stay living at home with support as and when you want it.
We provide you with the tools, so you can spend your time doing what you do best.
Manage your workflow better, enabling more quality time with clients.
Hellen is passionate about the future of care and support, and she sets the vision and strategy for the business. You’ve never met a bigger Excel geek.
Alexandra keeps an eye on product development and operations, and ensures that Alcove is hitting the highest standards when it comes to quality. She’s a lover of everything equine.
Marcus manages the technical team and is responsible for making the Alcove system work. His background in making medical devices means he knows how to make robust technology. He’s a Microsoft fan through and through.
Digital transformation is championed as THE solution to problems in the public sector, with “data” the panacea to its ills.
Don’t get me wrong… as the founder of an assistive technology company, I am totally committed to the belief that automation and insight have a crucial role to play in improving the services delivered by the public sector. When done correctly, it will allow wider access to better services that can be delivered for less. However, whilst most authorities are still grappling with how best to harness “data” and “digital” to create efficiencies, few have given much consideration to how to use it to create additional revenue. Even though they may already have spun off an LATC (Local Authority Trading Company) or two, which would act as an ideal vehicle through which to channel new revenues.
There are many opportunities for local authorities to generate income with little – if any – significant channel shift or service changes. Take our area of practice, social care: 30% efficiencies need to be created to plug the growing care funding gap and cater to the rapidly increasing demand – more people are simply living longer. 30% would be ambitious even if disruptive technologies (IoT, smart devices and wearables) or cutting-edge data science (artificial intelligence, machine learning and behavioural data analytics) were implemented across the board. Even more so, when you take into consideration the profit margins required to make such solutions sustainable.
Some specific ideas, then:
Many local authorities already run their own careline monitoring centres and responder services. These almost exclusively respond to activations of the (rather dated) pull cord and pendant alarm systems supplied by most councils’ community alarms or telecare teams. These 24/7 services are expensive to run. On the whole, they would benefit from scale but many are underutilised. Why not use these as hubs to supply emergency response to self-funders, with growing numbers of people finding their own care solutions, many of which demand a failsafe backstop in case of a real emergency? The workers in these call centres are often highly skilled and well trained. They are the domain specialists that are crucial to close the loop for high impact data science. Why not put the mathematicians in these centres with the domain experts to crunch the in-home and open data sets which councils hold, look for patterns across the geography, and build the algorithms that will manage demand at the front door and inform preventative interventions that could keep people in their own homes for longer.
I’ve also seen a number of consumer “domiciliary care on-demand” start-ups lately, raising significant venture capital funding – ordering carers by the hour, exactly as you would a cleaner or a handyman, a familiar model in most of the UK’s big cities.
These on-demand models face major challenges:
Local authorities are incredibly well suited to take advantage of these market opportunities – their adult social care teams and trusted assessors are well versed in assessing and prescribing care packages. They already have contractual relationships with providers who have vetted and trained their staff to an agreed standard; they receive large numbers of enquiries every day from potential customers – people who fail to qualify for state assistance so will need to pay for care directly. Finally, they are already an established brand in the community, so why would you want to switch? A public / private fusion funded model also has the potential to raise the standards of care delivered across the board – as profits from selling care to self-funders can be used to better train workers, or increase pay to a living wage.
These self-funders expect to fulfil their purchases using mobile digital tools – so this is where you would also expect local government to need to partner with technology providers in order to create a high quality customer journey from purchase to delivery of service: a consumer-flavoured experience irrespective of buying route. E-marketplaces are an opportunity for personal budget holders and self-funders to access services. However, rather than a shop in which to promote the products and services supplied by others, local authorities should look at how they can generate income by selling their own services to those who are normally unable to access them.
The challenges faced by the public sector, including budget cuts, clearly need addressing as soon as possible. Exciting work is already taking place around the country to digitise and optimise social care services, to increase personalisation and choice offered to the end user. From IBM’s recent announcement that it is working with Harrow Council to introduce its Watson Care Manager system to the UK. To Agilisys’ more established work with recent acquisition QuickHeart on assessments, resource allocation and digital marketplaces. While these may help realise costs savings, the significant opportunities created by technology to increase the top line must not be overlooked. As the hub of the community, each local authority has the potential to be a key provider of paid-for, on-demand services to self-funders, and become the cornerstone of exciting open data projects that help us move towards preventative models of health and social care. Not only saving money but generating it, and improving lives too. What’s not to like?
Alcove’s young co-founders are driven by being able to make a difference to people —their system saved a life within weeks of going live—and make a profit.
TechMarketView have been running their Little British Battler programme since 2011.
The aim is to give the selected Little British Battlers the opportunity to get on the radar by presenting their products and services, and successes and aspirations, to the TechMarketView team. In exchange TechMarketView gives the LBBs feedback on their businesses, along with ‘airtime’ on UKHotViews and visibility among the TechMarketView client base, the cast of which reads like the Who’s Who of the UK software and IT services (SITS) marketplace. Not to put too fine a point on it, this is market exposure that money simply can’t buy!
Alcove was selected at the event held in April 2016 in partnership with the sponsors, technology merchant bank MXC Capital. And this is what they wrote:
Company overview – Alcove (TMV View)
Market proposition & strategy
Alcove is a Little British Battler in the true sense of the term, a start-up punching above its weight that promises to disrupt an established market in some style. Alcove provides an Internet-of-Things (IoT) powered ‘telecare’ system that supports independent living by combining real-time data from wireless sensors with that from other in-home and wearable consumer devices, such as a smart watch that acts as a panic alarm and a tablet that can be used for video calls.
Under the strapline “Growing old disgracefully”, the SME is dragging telecare into the digital age. It has a software-led approach, adapting, integrating and aggregating the best consumer hardware and developing its own bespoke software wrapper. Data is analysed and displayed simply in a web-based application and used to send real-time personalized alerts to help keep older and disabled adults living independently in their own homes and out of residential care.
Target Markets & Positioning
Alcove is targeting the UK B2B telecare market, selling to local authorities, housing associations and domiciliary care providers as well as outsourcers serving those markets. The LBB is aiming to disrupt the established telecare market, which is characterised by obtrusive panic alarms with big red buttons from incumbents such as Tunstall, and pioneer independent living. The team is passionate about replacing hard-wired pull cords and pendant alarms with a data-driven service that enables preventative care and saves care and support providers money.
Given the pressures that the UK adult social care and domiciliary care markets are currently facing, Alcove’s proposition ought to be a ‘no-brainer’ for care providers. By improving efficiency and reducing manpower using the system, customers have the potential to save millions of pounds. Indeed, Alcove’s early success with big name clients like East Thames, Capita, Peterborough and Sheffield City Councils bodes well for the business case and future sales.
For the time being, Alcove is sensibly focused on B2B telecare, rather than either B2C telecare or telehealth. Targeting B2C telecare would require too much cash and Alcove believes telehealth has yet to mature as a market—the devices aren’t quite there yet and medical regulation presents too much of a challenge. Moreover, Alcove has more than enough to keep it busy in its current target market—it’s not short of opportunities.
It’s early days for Alcove financially as the business was only founded in 2014 and was ready to make its first sale in Q4 2015. The initial signs are good though. Alcove is growing rapidly and some 50% of revenue is currently recurring.
Objectives & Strategy
Alcove’s young co-founders are driven by being able to make a difference to people—their system saved a life within weeks of going live—and make a profit. They want to maintain control of the business but as with all SMEs also need to ensure sufficient working capital. Alcove may consider an IPO in order to raise additional capital or, more likely, find itself acquired by a SITS company that is hoping to profit from the evolving UK telecare market. In the meantime, Alcove will be developing its offering further and we wouldn’t be surprised to see it developing a data analytics capability, perhaps to enable dynamic care planning, or integrating with other social care applications.
So all in all lots of nice things to write home about. We were particularly flattered at being described as young (the botox is clearly working) and charismatic (well all this hard work has to be fun). Flattery will get you everywhere TMV. We do try to practice what we preach and you’re always welcome to join us. #GrowOldDisgracefully – NOW THAT’S AN ORDER!
Help us win the ‘Digital Health Award’ at the Tech4Good Awards please! Vote online here or by retweeting or using #T4GAlcove in any of your Tweets.
Alcove just gives you a lot more visibility and a bit more confidence that things will be alright even if you’re not there.
June (62) has been the primary carer for her mum Jean (86) for the last 7 years. Alcove went to see them both for Dementia Awareness Week (15-21 May) and to celebrate the commitment of carers for Carers Week (6-12 June 2016).
What does your care routine look like now?
I visit mum every weekday, and I pay care workers to come on the weekend when I couldn’t make it. Recently, because Mum’s dementia has got worse, social services have funded care workers to come in in the morning and do her breakfast. It’s great because I don’t have to rush so much, and can spend more time chatting to mum and doing the more important stuff.
I’ve lived in Barking now for the last 26 years ago in a lovely house but the area is not so great any more, and I’d think about moving, but I don’t drive and I don’t want to be too far away from mum.
Jean agreed how lucky she was to have such a dedicated daughter. I notice mother and daughter are wearing matching earrings – Jean’s pick up the pink of her cardigan and June’s the purple grey of her jumper.
How did becoming a carer impact your life at the time?
I left work to see more of mum and was lucky enough to be able to take early retirement at 55 – although I did have to ask for redundancy 4 times before my employers finally gave it to me. Mum was suffering from health problems at the time, which later turned out to be skin cancer, and I wanted to be there for her. I wanted to visit more and be able to go to the doctors’ appointments to push for answers, because no one had come up with a diagnosis. It made sense to spend the weekdays looking after mum and then be able to spend weekends with my man.
Has your mum got a diagnosis now? What was the experience of getting one like?
I didn’t fully appreciate at first, when I was at work, that she had memory problems. When I spent more time with her, I realised there was something wrong, It took 2 years to get a diagnosis. It was a really dreadful journey. The doctors spoke to me, and either ignored mum like she wasn’t in the room or talked to her like she was stupid. They put it down to age and denied she had anything wrong with her. We moved surgery to see if we could get more answers, and at first had the same difficulty there. But we eventually found a nurse who diagnosed both the leg cancer, and then (after hospital visits and tests) early onset dementia.
After she was diagnosed, someone phoned to see how I “felt.” When I told her I felt relieved, it wasn’t quite the answer she was looking for. But it was a relief to know it wasn’t me imagining things or being over protective. We were referred to a dementia clinic and were offered some plenty of advice or meetings but we didn’t really take it up. I felt we were used a bit as guinea pigs, as I spent lots of time with mum, so could give more feedback than most people. I found out all about the dementia by reading and studying on Internet.
Jean interrupts and says that June is the world leading expert on the subject. We look at pictures of June’s grandson and Jean’s great grandson – a very handsome young man at 2 years old.
What’s good about being a carer?
I prefer doing everything myself. Mum calls me bossy boots. I am my fathers’ daughter. It’s a pleasure looking after mum. Why wouldn’t you want to look after someone you love? It was great being able to take mum away on holiday before travel became too much of an issue. We really lavished some money on our last trip to Disneyland – stayed in the most amazing hotel.
How much other support do you get?
As the dementia has progressed, social services have got more involved. I couldn’t speak more highly of the memory clinic. Mum enjoys their company when they come. We now get support for mum in the mornings and they come in to give her afternoon tea and cup of tea before bed.
Jean is upset about the impending staff changes and is going to miss Randy Lewis, the 9am-5pm weekday member of staff when he leaves.
He is a treasure – he doesn’t take anything personally and knows how to calm people. Most importantly we trust him implicitly. On the weekend and at night there is only one person, and I worry that they won’t be there to support mum if someone else needs support at the same time.
Has the Alcove system made a difference to you?
I would be a poster girl for Alcove. I noticed mum’s condition was accelerating once I could see what was going on when I wasn’t there. I could check every day what was going on which was very reassuring. I saw that the care she was getting wasn’t enough. It even helped me pick up things like a water infection, when I noticed frequent trips to the lavatory. I can see when she leaves her room, but it’s normally the other residents that get her back as she’s been here 18 years now and they all know her. Alcove just gives you a lot more visibility and a bit more confidence that things will be alright even if you’re not there. I even managed a girly weekend in a different part of the country, which I probably wouldn’t have done previously. Apart from a few hours of stress as I could see the staff weren’t supporting mum properly, I felt more confident that I could have some time away. If I had to move mum, I would definitely pay to get it installed. It’s marvellous stuff.
Do you worry about getting dementia yourself?
There’s no point worrying about whether it’s genetic. It will either happen or it won’t and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it.
We talk about Jean’s family of 10 siblings all raised in Somerset. About one of her brothers, a former university professor, who also has dementia and has been sectioned for being violent. You know these too are mother and daughter – always friendly, always joking, always positive.
Consider yourself lucky mum – the dementia could be a lot worse.
I think back to those earrings. Different sides of the same coin these two.
Watch our brand new Alcove video here to understand what we do.
Some of the benefits for family and friends can be seen here.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
We want to empower good carers to do great work untainted by the fakers, cheaters and abusers.
I’m sure you’re just as sickened as us about the continued headlines of abuse in the UK care system. Today’s titles of “Ill fed, unwashed, abandoned… and they call it care,” “Care workers cover up neglect,” are deeply sad and truly terrifying. How, in this information age, can this abuse still go on? Why, when you handle cash in any job, will you have a camera monitoring every transaction, yet when you handle society’s most precious assets, vulnerable human beings, are you largely left unmonitored and to your own devices.
Care visits are commissioned in time slots – 15minute visits being the minimum length of visit commissioned in the public sector. In most instances, there will either be no monitoring of the commissioned visit or councils will use an electronic call monitoring system, whereby a care worker is meant to use the landline phone in the house they are visiting to dial an 0800 number when they arrive and when they leave. As you might imagine, compliance with these type of systems is low; the system is open to abuse; and there is usually no emergency system set up if carers are late or do not show up. In the last 3 years, councils have reported over 3m cases where the carer was late (and you can bet there’s loads more that go unreported). In the last year alone, there were 500,000 instances where the carer did not show up at all. Imagine waiting for your carer in the morning – unable to get up, use the bathroom or feed yourself. Trapped in your bed with no idea if and when someone will come to help you. Its abuse of the highest order, totally unacceptable and entirely avoidable.
At Alcove, we have harnessed the power of the Internet of Things to build a visitor monitoring solution to help tackle this type of abuse and create a better care system for carers and the cared for. It’s incredibly simple and doesn’t involve giving carers expensive smartphones. Carers are instead given simple plastic key fobs or ID cards which they use to tap in and tap out of a service users’ home on a small white box, usually placed by the front door. This produces a tamperproof digital record of exactly who visited when and for how long. On top of that, our bespoke alerting engine sends text message alerts if carers are late or do not attend. These can be sent to up to 3 people – so they might go to the care provider or local authority but can also go to family members or friends. These real time notifications ensure people are never left abandoned or neglected.
Funding cuts can not be used as an excuse not to deploy simple, smart systems like this – not only are they extremely cheap (less than £10 per month) – but in the long run they save providers money by producing an evidence base for charging. You only pay for the care that is delivered – if your 30 minute visits are actually only 15 minute visits, you have the evidence to support reducing payments. They very quickly pay for themselves.
We must of course be careful not to vilify a whole industry, and remember that most carers are exactly that – caring people who do the best, often in extremely difficult circumstances, for those they care for. No payment for travelling time, means carers often effectively work for below the minimum wage. Caring is not a glamorous job and not considered a career of choice for most of us, partly because of the bad reputation that certain bad apples give it. A simple monitoring solution can not only identify and eliminate bad performance, and weed out the bad apples, but it can help to recognise and reward good performance. We want to empower good carers to do great work untainted by the fakers, cheaters and abusers. We can use technology for good to do this. Find out about the Alcove visitor card and our other solutions by contacting us at email@example.com.
The Internet of Things and the real-time insights it produces has a large role to play to improve people’s lives, save money and free up people to do what they do best. CARE.
The landscape is looking very bleak for the future of our adult social services. At a whopping 40% of Local Authority spend, adult social care is not an area that can be protected from broader budgetary cuts. More and more local authorities are reducing services, some under the radar, but mostly in the public domain. A few weeks ago Newcastle Council announced it was planning to cut 30 full time social work posts in order to save £1.2m- not even denting the £30m total savings it needs to make this year. http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2016/01/28/council-proposes-shed-50-social-work-posts-cuts-plan/.
The government’s recent decision to allow local authorities to increase council tax by 2% to fund adult social care, on top of a 2% increase to fund other services, means a very real 4% rise in taxes for many citizens this year. And it is not nearly enough. “…in Newcastle this will generate £1.7 million but this is nowhere near enough to address the scale of the financial pressures we face,” said a spokesperson for the council. Even children’s social care, previously hallowed ground, is not protected from cuts, with 6% of the workforce for the axe and a restructuring focusing services more on prevention.
One of Newcastle’s other budget proposals was to cut funding for telecare services to save £1.2m. Although introduced as a money-saving tool, the business case for classic telecare has still not successfully been made, despite significant government investment (see Whole Systems Demonstrator and DALLAS projects). “Telecare as implemented in the WSD trial did not lead to significant reductions in service use, at least in terms of results assessed over 12 months.” To us, this reactive model clearly doesn’t work.
It is refreshing to hear Newcastle talk about insight and prevention. “The way we deliver social care is changing and we are making much greater use of data analysis and insights to identify children and adults who are most at risk to help target resources to people who need our support most.
Only by taking a preventative approach can such significant cost savings be achieved, and services and their users not be jeopardised in the process. Prevention can only happen with the right insight, and that is where Alcove comes into its own. We can demonstrate real savings – money returned to commissioners or re-deployed to service more customers. Using the Internet of Things to create real-time alerts, allowing people to be remotely supported; provide data and insight into people’s behaviour so the care delivered to them can be dynamically changed based on real-time need; and use of connected devices to enable and re-able citizens rather than commission more hours of unaffordable and not always reliable domiciliary care.
Technology must be used to optimise rather than cut services – a system which works both ways. Firstly, get the right support to people when they enter the system. Then quickly spot when people’s conditions deteriorate and they need more support, or use as an evidence base to see the success of reablement or positive behavioural interventions, e.g. daily movement from bedroom to living room, and fridge opening in the morning before a morning carer visit, may evidence possible redeployment of that visit elsewhere. No need for rota’d checks because we know people are up and about, and the system flags if they aren’t.
And just to put your mind at ease, we aren’t leaving people more isolated by reducing levels of human contact. We are very passionate about using technology to better connect people so our new in-home device does super simple voice and video calling so you can have face-to-face chats with everyone from your daughter in Australia to the district nurse. Lifestyle nudges are used to help people help themselves wherever possible; messages or reminders can be sent by anyone in an approved network; and alerts are only raised if something really is of concern.
Care will always be a predominantly human-resource reliant sector (unless those pesky robots get a lot smarter and a lot cheaper), but the Internet of Things and the real-time insights it produces has a large role to play to improve people’s lives, save money and free up people to do what they do best – CARE.
Would be great to hear what you think.
Alcove has just been accepted on to the G-Cloud 7 framework, meaning our Software As A Service is now available to purchase on the Digital Marketplace.
Alcove has just been accepted on to the G-Cloud 7 framework, meaning our Software As A Service is now available to purchase on the Digital Marketplace here.
The point of the marketplace is to make it clearer, simpler and faster for the public sector to buy digital products and services. The plan? To make procurement a far better process for both supplier and customer. We applaud that! It’s a kind of supermarket for public sector services where you can search using key words, which hopefully goes some way to cutting a path through the public sector procurement jungle for small companies.
Total spend through the marketplace has been increasing year on year, and is likely to be in the region of £400m this year, split nearly identically between SMEs and non-SMEs. The figures are well laid out here. What is not clear is how much of this business was spent on start up companies (companies less than 5 years old and a turnover of less than £2m).
Previous analysis by Spend Network, an open data business, highlighted the difficulty of doing business with government as a small, young company. They looked at three years worth of procurement transactions from central and local government, finding a total spend of £68bn with identifiable suppliers. Of this spend, just £1.8bn (or 2.7%) went to start ups.
In the past, the local government agenda has focused on economies of scale, paving the way for the big outsourcers to secure massive contracts and significant market share. However, there does appear to be a growing belief in SME engagement in public procurement as the best way to deliver value for money for local government. As well as increasing competition and market innovation; working with SMEs may offer wider social value like stimulating the local economy, offering apprenticeships or providing better service choice.
Other public sector moves which have helped small companies include requiring the entire public sector supply chain to be paid within 30 days; abolishing pre-qualification questionnaires for low value contracts; and the requirement to publish all public sector contracts in one place on Contracts Finder. The payment terms in particular are a godsend to small companies for whom cashflow = survival. It stops them being punished by high interest payments to banks or invoice factoring fees, which often erode any profit margins. The Government has talked a lot about the UK being a start-up economy but this can only work if companies are not wasting money on things like unnecessary interest payments. It is good to see them leading by example.
Local government already does a lot of work with SMEs and the voluntary sector but anything that can be done to make life easier for both parties is welcome, particularly in light of current budgetary pressures and rising demand for services. Local Authorities are able to make savings by using their spending power strategically, getting the best value for money by shopping around. The Digital Marketplace goes some way to helping them do this.
Alcove won the TTE Awards Best IoT Product of 2015 this week.
We are super excited to have won the TTE Awards Best IoT Product of 2015 this week.
We have also been nominated for the V3 Awards Best Internet of Things Product. The full shortlist is available here. Fingers crossed…
What with winning the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists’ (WCIT) Public Sector Innovator of the Year – it’s not been a bad year all round for Alcove.
Lovely to have recognition of the cause. We are on a mission to pioneer independent living, revolutionise care and support and smash the stigma associated with ageing. Let’s do this…
Hurrah! Alcove secures adult social care partnership with Peterborough City Council.
Hurrah! Alcove secures adult social care partnership with Peterborough City Council.
Peterborough City Council (PCC) and Alcove have today signed a contract that will create a new lifestyle for older residents in the city. Alcove will be using its Internet of Things technology to pioneer independent living and revolutionise care and support by providing a connected care ecosystem to PCC’s older and disabled residents.
The first 100 users to be brought online this year will receive a personalised selection of Internet enabled devices powered by Alcove’s cutting edge software matched to their aspirations and requirements.
Gillian Beasley, Chief Executive at PCC says: “At Peterborough CC we like to push the boundaries of technology to help deliver services and tackling the austerity challenges that all council‘s face. The council already has an innovative technology strategy utilising the best of breed public sector software. With Alcove, we now believe we have found the best of breed social care monitoring system and we are excited to be working with them in transforming the lives of our residents. From first meeting them it’s obvious how passionate Alcove are about using technology to enhance the wellbeing of our residents and as a council we are proud to support a UK start up and especially one that can hopefully encourage more women into the tech sector.”
Packages of in-home sensors will alert concerned neighbours, family members or care workers to falls, deterioration in health or other problems. Smart wearables can be used to raise an alarm in an emergency, allow approved people to call and speak to the citizen, or send them all sorts of relevant notifications, ranging from medication or appointment reminders to local community events. Tablets enable video calling – just one press away from your daughter or the doctor. RFID technology monitors health and care visits in the house, and activates alerts if workers are late or do not show up. You don’t need to be digitally literate to use any of the Alcove devices because they either require no behaviour change on the part of the user, or the functionality has been simplified to make them super accessible and easy to use.
Adrian Chapman, Service Director for Adult Services and Communities at PCC, says: “The contract with Alcove will revolutionise the way that the council delivers its adult social care service through moving to a proactive trigger based service, allowing residents to remain safely in their own homes for longer in a monitored but unobtrusive way.”
For Alcove, prevention is the name of the game. We believe passive pull cords and big red buttons are no longer acceptable solutions in this digital era – not least because you press the button (if you are able) after the crisis event has already occurred. The real magic happens when you have enough data to spot deteriorations in long term conditions, predict a stroke, or detect a possible urinary tract infection early enough to prevent hospitalisation. Predictive and early interventions can make measurable improvements to people’s lives, and save money at the same time by smarter deployment of better skilled health and care workers.
“The Alcove technology fits perfectly with the council’s technology strategy and transformation programme. Assistive Technology and the Internet of Things need to become prevalent across Local Authorities in helping to deliver much needed service change. With Alcove we believe we have found a solution that is ground breaking in the area of social care and look forward to integrating this solution within the other solutions the council is currently implementing.” Richard Godfrey, Assistant Director Digital, PCC.
Alcove and Peterborough intend to use this demonstrator as a launchpad for further initiatives, working together to implement cost savings, and keep the citizens of Peterborough better supported where they want to be, in their own homes. Everything is tailored to the individual – you even get to choose your own strap designs for your smartwatch. Users will benefit from digital inclusion, reduced social isolation, better safeguarding and smarter service delivery.
“We are delighted to be working with Peterborough who share our vision for a long term care revolution. The potential to have a significant, positive impact on people’s lives excites us hugely, and we are committed to ensuring our customers have a great experience.” Hellen Bowey, Director, Alcove Limited.
If you are interested in accessing the Alcove service or taking part in the demonstrator, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And make sure you follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram @youralcove.
Exciting or what? Well for us it is anyway. We have been shortlisted for the Tech Expo’s Best IoT Solution of the Year.
Exciting or what? Well for us it is anyway. We have been shortlisted for the Tech Expo’s Best IoT Solution of the Year. The other nominees are:
From beacons to analytics to digital personal assistants to miniature computers to security systems to smart gloves. Esteemed company indeed. Thrilled to be part of unlocking the potential of the network of everything. The possibilities are, genuinely this time, endless.
We are OVER THE MOON that we’ve been able to help. We are ecstatic about the prospect of continuing our work with East Thames staff and residents to ensure ongoing innovation, and deliver even better customer experience and satisfaction.
Happy days! We have now finished our trial with East Thames Group. We love feedback because we are all over impact measures – the more the merrier.
And it keeps us out of trouble.
We’ve been doing work shadowing (pre and post), exit questionnaires and interviews, and bucket loads of data analysis to get some insight into how we’ve done, help us measure Alcove’s impact and see where we can improve the Alcove offering.
When we started Alcove, we set out with a mission to build something that actually works (how mad does that sound? BUT, often technology just doesn’t work – particularly in this market), looks great (fed up with pull cords and big red buttons, any component had to be something we would wear or have in our house) and be easy to use (anything complicated would be sure to hinder adoption).
IT WORKS – HURRAH!
99.6% SYSTEM UP TIME (big fat gold star to Marcus and his Dev Team up in Reading) and a shedload of proven impact:
*HARD CASH – cost savings (£35k p.a. in just one 4-resident scheme)
*KEEP EM SAFE – 92% users think Alcove has helped to improve safeguarding and has increased their knowledge of residents’ behavior.
*GET THERE FASTER – Plus a 78% reduction in response times to alerts since January.
* LIVE BETTER – improved quality of life for carers (84% of support workers reported feeling less stressed since using Alcove).
*MAKE CARE A CARER OF CHOICE – 69% agreed that Alcove has added value to their work and helped them grow professionally/personally, while 54% of them believe their digital skills have improved.
Anyway – it’s not just about what we say… What say our lovely Clients?
“The Alcove system has enabled far greater protection against safeguarding concerns; mainly as a preventative and early intervention to avoid concerns from arising in the first place but it also provides a robust audit system which evidences who did what and when if things do go ‘wrong’. This has gathered a lot of attention and interest from commissioners of my services. Quality of life for residents is greater as they receive less intrusive support, for example being not disturbed by workers checking they are “ok” and as a result are sometimes more willing to engage in scheduled support sessions. Contract compliance is improved through our ability to evidence support delivery via the carer monitoring, and is enhanced by the whole system so it is possible to see what action a support worker has taken in response to an alert, which gives greater confidence in the service rather than relying on integrity or word of mouth. We are using Alcove to help us ensure our deployment of workers is optimised and organised at times that suit our customers so that our services are offering real value for money.” Leila Hill, Area Service Manager – Care and Support, East Thames Group.
IT’S EASY TO USE. 92% OF OUR USERS SAID SO.
Performance, quality, customer service, flexibility / customization and user experience were all cited as reasons for satisfaction. Most importantly – 67% of users reported that using Alcove had helped them improve the way they provide care and support so our most precious assets, the older and disabled adults we are caring for, get a better service.
We aren’t happy with 67% – we aspire for 100% – but we are OVER THE MOON that we’ve been able to help. We are ecstatic about the prospect of continuing our work with East Thames staff and residents to ensure ongoing innovation, and deliver even better customer experience and satisfaction. C’mon Alcove!!
Just keep on giving us feedback folks.
No two days are the same, and for me that is one of the best bits! I oversee a range of different social care services so I am regularly in touch with my different teams to make sure I am up-to-date.
This is the first instalment of a new series called “Who Cares?” focused on people working in care who we consider to be care and support innovators. First up we have Leila Hill, Area Service Manager, Care and Support, East Thames Group (housing association with 13,500 homes active in East London and Essex):
1. Describe your average day? What are the best bits and what are the worst?
No two days are the same, and for me that is one of the best bits! I oversee a range of different social care services so I am regularly in touch with my different teams to make sure I am up-to-date and they get support and advice from me when they need it. I meet with commissioners from the local authority so I can ensure services are strategically relevant, adapt to the fast-changing external environment and embed lessons learned when things go wrong. I really enjoy developing trusting and effective partnership working with families, commissioners, social workers and other organisations. The worst part is when partnerships break down and the ‘blame game’ kicks in.
2. Tell us about some of your recent successes in care and support?
Over the past couple of years we have been developing bespoke services for people with complex needs and autism moving from registered care or residential schools into supported living. We invested a lot of resources to upskill our staff and embed Positive Behaviour Support plans consistently – the behavioural analysis that sits behind these plans has enabled us to evidence solid improvements in functioning and improved quality of life.
3. What are the ongoing problems?
Where to start?! Evidencing why over-stretched funding authorities should invest in preventative services is really hard, particularly when they are already cutting emergency and critical budgets. The biggest issue for me is that each agency that manages a budget only really cares about their budget in a very short-term way and don’t consider how their services impact on other budgets… but as a tax payer this feels wrong! For example cutting low level and preventative mental health services impacts negatively on police, ambulance, GP’s and hospital budgets. It’s hard to ‘prove’ that without a low level early support intervention how a person with mental health difficulties would have turned out (and what money is saved from other budgets) because it’s impossible to carry out the experiment
4. What do you think of the The Care Act?
It was necessary to deal with all the different bits of legislation and create one unifying act, but I am sceptical there is enough money to deliver on the aspirations.
5. What makes you tick?
I have a strong belief that society has a responsibility to treat the most vulnerable people within it ethically and respectfully, I would call it a sense social justice. I also love doing new things in new ways, taking calculated risks if they can make a proper difference and improve lives in real ways
6. What upsets you?
Indifference to people who are suffering.
7. If you had 3 care and support wishes what would they be?
1. Health authorities properly investing long term in preventative services.
2. Greater understanding within wider society of how hard day-to-day life can be for people who are disabled and their close families.
3. Social care having higher status so it attracts and retains people who really care about their jobs.
8. Do you think technology can make a difference?
Yes!! In so many ways!
It concerns me that we are creating an ‘underclass’ of people who through frailty, vulnerability or socio-economic status are unable to participate in the technology revolution, and this makes their lives even harder. It’s so easy to renew a passport or driving licence online but if you don’t know how to do it or don’t have a computer you spend longer and maybe pay more – especially if your local post office has closed and you have to travel – to get the same service.
Technology has been used for years in banks and supermarkets to check that staff are honest and behaving with integrity. The social care sector has rightly been concerned with the privacy of people who use services but the consequences are that staff often cannot prove when they do their job well and families cannot feel confident that their families are well cared for. I don’t think monitoring should be covert like when the BBC goes in with a hidden camera, it should be overt (and respectful of privacy issues) to encourage a culture in which staff expect to have their work scrutinised and held to account for how well they do their job.
9. What do you envisage your life to be like when you are 80?
Ha ha ha, I’m not telling you about my private life! But I hope I still have family, friends and fun in my life.
Akua is a support worker at one of East Thames Groups’ extra care older adult schemes. She allowed us to interview her for Carers week 2015.
How long have you worked in care?
I’ve been caring for more than 10 years and worked for East Thames Group for the last 3 years. I’ve worked with the elderly and with young people with mental health issues.
Who do you care for now?
There are about 30 people in the scheme, which is extra care older adults, so I care for all of them really but I provide direct care to about 10 of them.
What is the best thing about the job?
Everything really. It is a beautiful thing to take care of someone. If you care with your whole heart, what you get back is marvelous. It personally gives you lots of life experience. Sometimes you think you are supporting them but actually you are the one learning lots from them.
What is the worst thing about the job?
Some of the behaviour you face, which is often related to certain conditions, can be challenging. It is not always easy trying to support people in the best manner if they do not recognize their need for support. Sometimes they don’t understand or don’t agree with what you are trying to do for them.
Do you think technology can help you do your job?
Yes. It can be good to help the residents but also to support the staff. The technology we have at our scheme can provide evidence that you have been to the flat to help the resident.
Will you always work in care?
Yes. It is my job for life.
Do you also have your own family to look after?
Yes but my kids are grown up. Some residents here don’t have any family, some do not have any family that are around them, so I am like their surrogate family.
Would you like to become a manager?
Absolutely not. The training is very good at East Thames but I like working with people and doing the hands on stuff. People support what I do and think it is good that I work in care helping people.
What do you get out of your job?
You get very attached to your clients. You joke with them, and when you are at home on your own, you remember lots of things that make you smile. You miss them when you haven’t seen them for a while.
I remember one lady who was very challenging– she used to go out and get lost all the time. It was very difficult to take care of her. When she was moved to another scheme, I fought to keep her here – you just get attached to the people you care for.
We are really proud of “Our Hellen” after winning the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists’ Public Sector Innovator of the Year 2015 award last week.
We are really proud of “Our Hellen” after winning the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists’ (WCIT) Public Sector Innovator of the Year 2015 award last week.
Hellen was nominated for both Public Sector and the Social Innovator of the Year awards but she was nice so decided to let someone else win something. You can see all the winners here.
We had a fab night out at the Plaisterers’ Hall enjoying excellent company amongst the tech entrepreneur and advisor community – big shout out to Alicia Navarro – founder of Skimlinks which helps you monetise online content, Aaron Ross – founder of restaurant payment software Cake, Simon Gordon – founder of Facewatch which tackles crime, who all provided excellent dinner conversation. And to Sanjit Atwal, Duane Jackson and George O’Connor who provided many laughs in the bar afterwards! Not to forget Rob Wirszycz – mentor of the year and one of our shareholders, and the lovely Guy Rigby and Nick Travis from Smith & Williamson – of whom we are massive fans.
And it’s Alcove’s birthday tomorrow so double celebrations. Looking back on a great year and looking forward to an even better one – number one plan is to scale so we can have a bigger impact and make a real difference. Whoop whoop.
I spoke to the mother of a boy with autism at the event whose son went to an excellent SEN school and was now struggling to cope in a supported living environment. She felt distanced from him, with little knowledge of his daily routine, the challenges and successes of day-to-day life.
I’ve been a Governor at Swiss Cottage School for 4 years now. I originally volunteered to be a Governor in an attempt to do something useful while working for an investment company in the City. I’ve always been passionate about everyone’s right to get a good education – I was nearly written off myself because I went to a bad school and was developmentally slow. Thankfully my next few schools were great, and I proved the initial forecasts wrong – I was lucky enough to go be able to walk out of college at Oxford and stand over the grates outside the Bodleian library to smell the books.
Giving up my time to become a governor seemed like a good way to give back but I hadn’t considered then being recruited by a special school. What a journey it has been…
Last week Alcove attended the Roadmap for Life conference organised by the School (@SwissCottageSch & @MargaretMulhol2), a Special Educational Needs (”SEN”) event aimed at parents and professionals planning better futures for young people with SEN. The School is outstanding (proud to be 5-times outstanding according to OFSTED) and has its own development and research centre. It’s an excellent school that helps the young people that attend it to be the best that they can be but it also has a bigger vision to disseminate excellence in special needs education across the UK and the World.
As is now happening across the board, there is a push towards greater collaboration between institutions. Every young person with SEN is shortly expected to have an EHCP (Education Health & Care Plan) under the new (292-page) SEND Code of Practice 2015 (this light bedtime reading can be found here). Education is leading the push in the development of these personal plans with greater engagement from health and care required to make the worthy vision a reality. Ensuring the involvement of young people and their families in decision making at every stage will help create the personalised services, those that meet both needs and aspirations, that everyone wants.
But what happens to young people with learning difficulties after their formal education years (post 19-25 depending on how you interpret the new legislation)? What is the point of attending an outstanding school and getting the best education, health and care services as child if they cease to continue being outstanding when you become an adult?
I spoke to the mother of a boy with autism at the event whose son went to an excellent SEN school and was now struggling to cope in a supported living environment. She felt distanced from him, with little knowledge of his daily routine, the challenges, successes and failures of his day-to-day life. Even if progress was being made, she wasn’t made aware of it so it’s not surprising she thought he was going backwards. The lack of communication and transparency clearly raised anxiety levels, triggered suspicions about the quality of his care, as well as causing feelings of guilt and huge pressures to do something to make it better. To me, this was a good example of a situation in which relatively low cost technology could be used very effectively to give her comfort around his wellbeing and progress; enable better communication between him, his friends and family; promote trust between service providers and service users; empower and engage the care and support workers working with him; and help deliver better outcomes overall. All without infringing on his or her privacy and security.
She herself knew that technology could help– she had heard another father talk about his child sending him images of the important little successes like making himself a piece of toast in the morning – how could her son to do the same she asked me? She feared that her digital illiteracy was negatively impacting on her son’s life and she was keen to do something about it. Support is clearly needed in these situations – making the offering as simple as possible on a device that is intuitive and easy to use with as much free training as needed to ensure continued use. Customer service equaling here’s my mobile number – call me any time of day or night if you need to ask me anything or can’t work anything out. Not suggesting 15 apps doing 15 different things, and leaving someone to work them out for themselves. She wanted one simple route to access everything important to her about her son, and for her son to have the same support and access to everything important to him. It’s not that much to ask really when you look at it like that.
Care can never be fully automated but technology has a very important role to play in making sure the care workforce is optimised, monitored, protected and trained.
Care is a growth industry – more of us living longer means greater care needs. Another million paid care workers will be required in the next decade assuming current trends continue. Which might be considered good news for the market. Only care in its current guise tends not to be a career of choice. Why?
Pay for care workers is low, really low. It is often at or even below (taking into account unpaid travelling time between 15/30minute visits) minimum wage. And it has been decreasing in real terms year or year as budgets are squeezed…
On top of just poor pay, there are other potentially undesirable aspects of the job:
Simply recruiting more low skilled, poorly paid, unmotivated workers into care is not going to benefit them or the people they are meant to care for. Care workers often end up only equipped to do things unto their charges – washing them, feeding them, moving them etc. rather than doing things WITH their charges. Teaching them to adapt to their changing conditions and help them help themselves. Reablement is a nice idea but it rarely takes place in practice, and only after a hospitalisation event has already happened.
Investing in your workforce has time and again been shown to have a cost benefit reward. So why isn’t it done more often in care? We can only assume that the buyer’s focus lies all on cost and not on benefit – a skewed cost quality ratio, with an initial uplift in costs just unthinkable in a landscape of slashed budgets, regardless of the positive longer term impact it could have. This is a very short term outlook leaving providers unable to balance budgets for much beyond the next 2-3 year horizon without cutting services in an environment of increased demand (and wait till the impact of The Care Act is really felt).
Some organizations are now realizing that what you put in affects what you get out. We are working with East Thames Group that has recently agreed to pay all its workers the London Living Wage (an increase of 15% in take home pay for some). But many employers or commissioners will balk at such increases. We need to find a way of creating other savings so that investment can be made in the workforce, creating a better life at work for millions of care workers and a better life at home for the millions they care for.
We think technology is the layer that can achieve this –that can enhance safeguarding and quality of life; that can up-skill workers and improve training; that can drive better service and staff retention; and that crucially can reduce costs by better deployment of labour. Care is one of the few industries that will never be fully automated but technology has a very important role to play in making sure all those that work in care are optimised, monitored, protected and trained. It’s time for a change not a race to the bottom.
One thing we insisted when we started Alcove was everything we sold had to be something we would wear ourselves or be happy to have in our own homes. It had to look great and feel like any other popular consumer product…
One thing we insisted when we started Alcove was everything we sold had to be something we would wear ourselves or be happy to have in our own homes. It had to look great and feel like any other popular consumer product, both the hardware and the software. 99.9% of what we have seen designed specifically for “older people” is ugly and lacks any design aesthetics. Why do manufacturers think that we cease to have any sense of taste or style when we reach a certain age?
This shockingly bad design may have been because products to help you as you age were only ever bought in or after a crisis, e.g. a fall. People bought because they had to so it didn’t really matter what it looked like. Or because the older adult themselves rarely makes the purchase, grown up children buying for their parents without consultation, or local authorities buying en masse with little interest in what a beige plastic box might look like in someone’s house or whether someone might not want to wear a big red button around their neck. No wonder we all stick our fingers in our ears and pretend we are not getting old – scared of suddenly becoming sales targets for beige slacks with elastic waistbands or stairlifts advertised by abnormally happy septuagenarians.
So we set out thinking what would John Lewis sor Bang & Olufsen do if it was their business. Certainly ensure that the products were beautiful, actually worked and were easy to use. When we started as a team of just four, a whole quarter of the team was design – Simon is an experienced graphic and digital designer who has worked in digital agencies for big brands for over 10 years. Although it can be difficult at times to keep the focus on design particularly when faced with the time and cash pressures that all start ups experience, we have largely stuck to our guns. Good design remains one of the key tenet of the business – after all it costs no more than bad design. And good design makes things easier to use so reducing usability problems and support demands in the long run.
The other thing which always surprises me is no one actually asks the customers – which one would they like to wear, what are the key features they care about (the must haves and nice to haves), how much would they be willing to pay, would they like to just buy a product or have an ongoing support service, even whether they like the logo or name. Thanks to the Technology Strategy Board (now Innovate UK), we had the ability with our academic partners to put some of these questions to older adults, carers and care providers last year and have taken this knowledge forward to produce the Alcove service. By doing this, we hope to actually meet most or at least many of our customers’ requirements, which is after all the whole point. Now we know we can’t please everyone but we’ve given it our best shot.
One thing is for certain – my parents won’t be buying themselves a carephone and pendants any time soon but they acknowledge that they may need to adapt at some point. After all they live in a home they have spent all their life paying for – isn’t it about time it starts looking after them?
As The Care Bill comes into effect and demographic changes kick in, Local Authorities face a major funding and care quality problem – meet The Care Gap.
Many Local Authorities are currently facing a rapidly growing Care Gap as demand for at-home care services increases and budgets come under pressure. It is likely that many are also underestimating the impact that demographic changes and new legislation such as The Care Bill will have. Shortfalls of a few £100 thousand pounds are going to increase to several £million for most councils in the next 5 years.
The public are also becoming increasingly aware about quality of care issues with horror stories of theft, abuse and neglect hitting the headlines almost daily. Care has become an industry with low barriers to entry, not always attracting people with the right skills for the job. Care workers are often paid close to minimum wage for 15 or 30-minute visits, and no travelling time. Training, retention and career progression is often poor or non-existent. We place the care of our most valuable assets – older and disabled people – into poorly paid and poorly monitored hands. We applaud the excellent job that most care workers do in the circumstances but things must change to improve things for both the carers and the cared for.
So the big dilemma is how to improve the quality of care, manage demand and cut costs? That old chestnut of doing more and better for less.
The current system reacts to increasing demand by commissioning more “man hours,” which is neither affordable nor desirable. We need to deliver less hours of smarter care, personalized to the individual consumer – not replace human beings but free them up to do what they do best; and introduce a level of non-intrusive monitoring that allows vulnerable people to be safeguarded without their privacy being compromised.
Investing in technology and people is essential. There is a return on investment in training care workers to act as more than cleaners and cooks – training them to teach their wards how to be and stay independent, how to adapt their houses or their routines to better suit their current conditions and abilities. Adding a layer of technology can make their job easier by providing much needed safety and security; enabling people to do what they enjoy doing and and helping re-able them after a hospital visit or crisis event; pushing workflow to friends and families; helping rapidly direct trained responders to potential emergencies; and freeing them up from inflexible, scheduled checks to deliver more quality face-to-face time. The overall aim must be to move from a reactive to a preventative intervention model and elevate care above the meeting of needs to the delivery of something a lot more aspirational (digital inclusion for a start!), a customer journey comparable to other consumer experiences.
So these are some of the problems we’ve set out to solve at Alcove in partnership with other people that want to change things too. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Naming something you really care about is hard. This is the story of why we named our company Alcove. Hope you love it too.
I thought we should probably explain to all why we are called Alcove?
Naming something you really care about is HARD! Ideally you want a name to represent you / the business / your mission / your purpose – and all in one or a few words. It must be memorable, meaningful and AVAILABLE. People often underestimate the last point, but when there are about 5m companies just in the UK, finding a name that someone hasn’t taken already is tough. Plus when there are 2 of you, you have to agree on a choice. A good initial test. If you fall out over the name, probably best stop there.
Before we set up the business, we ran a project funded by the Technology Strategy Board as part of its Long Term Care Revolution programme called CASA. This stood for Connecting Assistive Solutions to Aspirations – a nice fall off the tongue acronym for a rather academic and LONG project title. But the mission was and still is to develop an assistive technology solution which goes beyond responding to crisis – pushing a button or pulling a cord – to something that can help people do the things they enjoy doing. As the solution was also about technology which could be put into the home, Spanish for house, seemed like a simple if not rather obvious idea.
Alcove probably isn’t quite as obvious as Casa but as a recess in a room or a small room itself, we felt it also reflected our belief that we could look to the home to look after us as we mature.
The dictionary definition is:
We want Alcove to be something we would all like to own, a service you welcome into your home not something you have to have because of a crisis, a must have the neighbours will covet, beautiful or at best invisible.
There were some other factors that sealed the deal:
So we sat with it for some time and couldn’t come up with anything better. The final decision was made after we asked some friends and colleagues for their feedback:
“This helps the image of the company as it is offering that secluded spot in their life by continuing their chance to live in their homes and be with family and assisted living is a connected part of this former living.”
“The name depicts a really lovely warm feel… I believe if you get it right for the users, you get it right for everyone, so I would focus the name on benefits for the end user (as you have done), rather than the organisational efficiencies it also delivers.”
That was good enough for us. We are often asked so now you know. Not very scientific and probably not the most meaningful or catchiest name on the market but it’s our name and we love it. The URL is a whole other story!
P.S. Thought you might also be interested in some of the rejects…
Meaning a place of residence, a house or home. A word which speaks of heritage and sophistication. Discounted because close to “Adobe” – a large tech corporate.
Meaning a corner or recess, especially one offering seclusion or security. Colloquial yet not overly used on a daily basis. Discounted because it is also the name of Barnes & Noble’s E-reader.
The place where the company originated. An area of London associated with design and architecture. Discounted because it doesn’t reflect in any way what we are trying to do.
A play on the word, home and the surname of a much loved detective, forever given a new lease of life in fictional adaptations. Discounted because the play of words / misspelling is just a bit too cool.
Meaning a period of time marked by distinctive character, events or changes on earth. It has a worldy feel about it. Discounted because it was not warm enough.
Meaning the part of a roof that meets the walls of a building. The primary function is one of protection. Discounted because very similar to my surname, which felt a tad uncomfortable.
The dried flower bud of a tropical tree, used as an aromatic spice. Cloves are considered to be warm and aromatic. Discounted because lack of relevance although not a million miles away from Alcove.
Whilst our team of developers have been busy building the Alcove system over the last three months, Hellen and I – co-founders – have been equally busy doing our second round of fundraising (amongst a myriad of other things).
Whilst our team of developers have been busy building the Alcove system over the last three months, Hellen and I – co-founders – have been equally busy doing our second round of fundraising (amongst a myriad of other things). As lovely as talking to new and interesting people about what an excellent investment opportunity Alcove is, quite frankly we’d rather be focusing on sales, service design, operations or pretty much anything else that furthers our ability to deliver a truly life changing service to people that need it. Ah the joys of pre-revenue.
I just fancied updating you on some of the events (the ordinary, mundane and bizarre) that have happened during the course of our fundraising journey. We have:
And so far so good. At times, it has felt like we were herding cats or nailing jelly to the wall. Getting people to commit to hard amounts has been interesting, and right now we are somewhere between closed, under and over subscribed but we are in the final furlong. Now time for some sleep. Onwards and upwards…
So are we close to getting a suitable piece of wearable technology that my Grandpa could benefit from? Despite his aversion to technology of this sort, it is largely through unfamiliarity; he is computer savvy and already wears a pendant, so why not introduce to him one of these watches and see what he thinks?
My Grandpa is 85, living on his own in Norfolk with a supportive system of carers and neighbours, as well as his pendant alarm. He is also the proud owner of a Casio F-91w. This is a watch that since its release in 1991 has remained unchanged, holding a rare customer loyalty unseen with any other digital product. It has a battery life of 7 years, is water proof to 30 metres, and has a date, stopwatch and alarm function as well as a backlit display. It is synonymous from young urban professionals, to detainees in Guantanamo, to my Grandpa.
So what does this have to do with smart watches?
Every day my Grandpa puts on his watch and pendant and heads off in to town. It has become routine for him, and I have noticed that he even wears it when he comes to visit despite it being ineffective beyond outside his house. So it begs the question; why not combine these two technologies in to one, and throw in a few added benefits? Behold the smart watch!
So what can we learn from the F-91w?
Obviously, the Casio F-91w is not going to catch on as a smart watch, but its ability to fulfil desirable criteria in a watch can and should be listened to by developers. A study by Nielson saw functionality, comfort, accuracy, battery life, and durability as the most important attributes for consumers when buying a smartwatch.
Obviously the Casio is restricted to basic functions so its ability to have such a long battery life and waterproof capabilities are something that smartwatches can only aspire to. Samsung’s claim that the Gear 2 Neo’s water resistance means that you don’t have to be limited by rough conditions or unpredictable weather doesn’t exactly cater for doing the washing up! But, if a smartwatch is going to be used to reliably and consistently monitor and improve the health and wellbeing of its wearers then the battery life and charging function must to be improved, perhaps by the introduction of a charging mat.
In terms of functionality, a watch like the Casio is simple, effective and intuitive. It has obvious buttons to perform certain tasks, and different options can be highlighted but not selected. If older users with poor eyesight or limited tactile function are to successfully use smart watches, then they must be functionally suited to them.
Ideally it should feature a customisable but familiar layout, one that works with specially designed technologies without having to open up a separate app. The likelihood of accidental actions must also be taken account of in the user interface, perhaps through the inclusion of an undo button. These buttons should also be large enough to easily select, perhaps by being able to increase and change the size of the button and font on the screen.
One of the major drawbacks of these watches is their dependence on another device; the upkeep of the device should be as straightforward and noncommittal as possible. Samsung’s new Gear S Smartwatch has taken a step forward; it is their first standalone device that can be used independently to a smart phone and can be fitted with a SIM card to offer calling, text and data abilities. This would enable the device to be used outside of the house and take advantage of GPS and accelerometer capabilities, increasing an individual’s ability to leave the house as they please without having to remember an extra piece of technology to keep charged, updated, and synced. It would also enable two way calling; in the event of a fall, an easily pressed alarm could trigger an alert, and they can stay in touch with someone while they wait.
So are we close to getting a suitable piece of wearable technology that my Grandpa could benefit from? Despite his aversion to technology of this sort, it is largely through unfamiliarity; he is computer savvy and already wears a pendant, so why not introduce to him one of these watches and see what he thinks?
Watch this space! By Polly Bass
It’s a big day today. We are shooting the Alcove concept video. I’ve never made a video before so have no idea what to expect. I think we are in safe hands with Rufus Leonard who have made some great stuff and have been brilliant in helping us present the vision.
It’s a big day today. We are shooting the Alcove concept video. I’ve never made a video before so have no idea what to expect. I think we are in safe hands with Rufus Leonard who have made some great stuff and have been brilliant in helping us present the vision. East Thames Group have suggested we go to one of their sites in Brentwood, a rather swish Essex town with lots of big houses and fast cars on forecourts.
We arrive at the destination and tumble out of the car knee deep in coffee cups and sandwich debris. The “film crew” consists of one friendly bloke and a very heavy bag full of kit. He’s got a hearing impairment himself so will be in good company today. He’s also clearly an ace lip reader as we cruise through the storyboard briefing.
Sue, the centre manager, comes out to welcome us. You instantly warm to her as she gives us the grand tour of the site. You can tell instantly she’s one of those diamond employees that will be difficult to replace. All but one of the ten 2-bedroom flats are single occupied now – the last remaining couple, Jim and Irene, have agreed to star in the film which feels like our first coup. The worry was that no one would want to be filmed but we get a surprisingly good turn out. I think Sue did some serious arm twisting.
The filming starts and is rather a laborious process with the setting up of each shot seemingly taking forever. I can’t believe how patient everyone is. Much less glamorous than I thought it would be.
It’s the people that are most memorable. Beattie full of wonderful one-liners… Ray, her son, a watch lover who’d have bought a smart watch had we been selling them… Irene keen to show us photographs of her beautiful garden including an award-winning thistle… Jim in his RAF Bomber Command flying suit, a very handsome young man indeed… the lovely Winnie, a care worker, rather disappointed that she has to cover up her sharp pin stripe shirt with a rather unflattering green tabard.
It’s not always easy to communicate – hard of hearing, poor vision, stooped posture, impaired speech but we mumble though, conversations tipping from the mundane to the ridiculous and back to simply human. I lost all my grandparents years ago and it’s been a while since I spent so much time with people that have lived so many years. Wonderful, warm people with fascinating stories to tell – a rapt audience drinking squash taking in the life experiences of others.
Filming is done – the footage goes off to the editing suite where most of it will end up on the cutting room floor. We say our goodbyes and promise to be back for the premiere.
It leaves me questioning when and why we reach a point where we are defined by our age. When do I become just “old”? When do I cease to be Jim who lives in Brentwood, has 6 sons, has been married to Irene for 67 years, is excellent at growing petunias and helped win a World War? When I grow up, I only hope I’m half the person.
Despite a growing number of firms seeking to capitalise on the value of an individual’s data, the issue of the true value of personal data is difficult to quantify as markets are new and dynamic.
By: Dr Glenn Parry, Associate Professor, Strategy and Operations Management, Faculty of Business & Law, University of the West of England – collaborator on the CASA (Connecting Assistive Solutions to Aspirations) Project.
Big data is not the same as little data with a different font size
Despite a growing number of firms seeking to capitalise on the value of an individual’s data, the issue of the true value of personal data is difficult to quantify as markets are new and dynamic. IoT has been discussed in terms of Ubiquitous Computing – that is computers will be everywhere – however, recently a change in the language used in articles on IoT has been noted as people have started to discuss Ubiquitous Data. As IoT develops it is sensors that will be everywhere, each giving out data, usually via an IP address. This leads to ubiquitous data – data is everywhere, and reporting on most things. This leads to additional challenges in data management, analysis and value.
What does this mean for data and value? This actually means that the value of data is likely to start to approach zero. However, the opportunity in creating value from is in the combination of not single, but multiple datastreams and the ability to mine ubiquitous data for value propositions. Traditionally databases are characterised as static sets of columns in a spreadsheet. Analysis is linear and works on the columns. Such an approach becomes unrealistic when data is ubiquitous. The potential volumes of streaming data mean it is no-longer feasible to transfer the data generated to a spreadsheet or point in time and then undertake the analysis. The transfer of such large volumes of data would be slow due to the bandwidth required, potentially costly, and also may pose a security risk if data is sensitive. It therefore makes sense for computing power and data processing to move closer to the data source – at least for the initial algorithmic analysis. Meta data detailing the results or requirements flowing from analysis can then be transferred. With a multiplicity of sensors it is not the data from the individual sensor, but the amalgamation of the output of numerous sensors into a logical and informative narrative which is of interest and value. Processes of Ubiquitous Data Mining (UDM) of data streams ideally provide knowledge as an output.
The infrastructure supporting the IoT will still be distributed. A query may run on a virtual database, but that query will access a distributed network resources, triggering local analysis and reporting back only that meta-data/knowledge which is required to build the larger narrative. Whilst this may appear complex such approaches are already employed. For example, a page viewed on Amazon is constructed not from one server, but rather by drawing in data and content from over twenty different sources. Discussions of the future of healthcare already talk about the use of this structure, drawing on local data from the home, patient records and other networks.
It is here that a new assisted living business model can really gain traction and create value. The current ALT systems appear to have been built as closed loops, without consideration of data being employed as part of a broader system involving communities, people and technology; a future socio-cyber-technical system. The value of an individual’s data increases for them when they become ill. Knowledge of an individual’s recent health and behaviour based upon data gathered in the home may prove critical when they go into hospital. Data from the home may be analysed to provide reports which indicate the time of an accident, or chart a decline over time. Doctors and hospitals are increasingly facing KPIs related to patient outcomes and structured health reports would be valuable to the receiving hospital – the patient arrives with a medical narrative. Further, in future, medical research companies would be able to query many individuals’ databases to test propositions or enquire about the efficacy of new treatments. Providing these outputs could be the differentiator and key source of value for ALT technologies’ data.
We started Alcove to solve a problem that is affecting many of us now, and will one day affect us all. Our goal is to enable independent living.
To set the scene, we started Alcove to solve a problem that is affecting many of us now, and will one day affect us all. Our goal is to enable independent living. We’re doing this by focusing on the individual needs and aspirations of our customers, and creating a solution that meets them.
Alcove is still being worked on (and we are trying to hold back the main details of our system until we are ready to launch next year) but that doesn’t mean we have to hold *everything* back. Right here we’ll be posting weekly about the challenges facing the social care sector; trying to unpick the complex legislative landscape; showcasing technology developments which might never happen or might turn out to be game changers; telling you how our Alcove ambassadors are getting on in our first trial; and sharing anything newsworthy that we feel deserves a little corner of the Internet.
We’ve spent the last 9 months talking to people about their aspirations and how technology might be used to help achieve them. In the process some things we suspected turned out to be true, others weren’t quite like we thought, and even more were completely different. What is and will always amaze us is just how interesting and diverse human beings are. We know we will never find anything that suits everyone but we endeavour to do the best for the most that we can.
So, follow us on Twitter or Facebook – and we promise not to bombard you with content but gently curate some great conversations about how we might be able to assist older and disabled adults live fulfilled and independent lives in their own homes. If you have the time to read, we would love to get your thoughts on the issues raised and how we might go about creating solutions.
Have a lovely week.
The Alcove Team