Beyond "I've fallen and I can't get up"

We won't have robotic servants that look like us, to take care of us in old age. But it's clear now that wearable clients, wireless networks, software, and communications-based services can do the job. I've seen my future and it works.

Everybody over 30 (and lots of those below) will remember Mrs. Fletcher.

"I've fallen and I can't get up." The commercial, from an outfit called LifeCall, ran in such heavy rotation 20 years ago it became a cultural touchstone.

The original company went out of business but a successor, called LifeAlert, has trademarked the phrase for a similar service.

In 2009 we've gone well beyond LifeCall. Companies like American Medical Aid Corp. (AMAC) now sell a host of alert services, directly and through re-sellers. They also have a supply chain, consisting of firms like Well-AWARE Systems, which clued me into this story.

Today's AMAC offerings include HealthBuddy, offered to ambulatory home-care patients; MedSmart, which can deliver up to 6 alerts to take medicine a day, and ResidentLink, a monitoring system for nursing homes and senior centers.

What WellAWARE brings to the party is an online system for collecting, interpreting, and delivering medical data, in real time, for anyone who is "aging in place," elderly but still in the home they built, the place they belong. It includes a sensor array, servers to collect and analyze the data, and an alert system for caregivers.

One thing that makes the AMAC-WellAWARE deal interesting is that the former also offers the Intel Health Guide, which offers some of the same services as WellAWARE, but is designed around an active patient interface.

AMAC is publicly-traded with a market cap of about $56 million. Compared to other health care companies, even those in the senior care niche, it is a minnow among sharks. These are very early days for this market.

Whether AMAC or WellAWARE make their investors fortunes, this niche is going to boom. We're all getting older. None of us want to go into "a home." We would all rather age among our friends and family and our well-loved stuff.

We also need to. There are too many baby boomers coming along, 76 million of us, to stuff us all into Sunrise centers or even Florida.

What we need are wireless monitors that can keep a constant check on our blood pressure, our sugar, our cognition, and our mobility. We need that data connected to systems so computers do most of the checking up on us, to reduce the load on relatives and emergency services. We need in-home care for cancer and other dread diseases.

We won't have robotic servants that look like us, to take care of us in old age. But it's clear now that wearable clients, wireless networks, software, and communications-based services can do the job.

I've seen my future and it works.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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