Ajit Pendse, the former Intel executive who has just launched Sonamba, is taking a mass market approach to the problem is elder care.
Sonamba's Wellbeing Monitor (right), for healthy seniors aging-in-place, is designed as a mass market device that can go through cell phone sales channels, in contrast to competing products that go through re-sellers specializing in elderly care.
The result is he can hit a price point of under-$500, plus roughly $1/day for service costs, with a service that combines medication alerts, messaging, and an emergency service.
The idea is that caregiving adults will buy these devices for their parents or grandparents, allowing remote monitoring of medication schedules and some contact with the folks.
His early research has shown users fall into two categories:
- Some seniors are adventurous. They use the games and they're active socially.
- Some are passive, watch the pictures telling them to take medicine, and don't interact.
The device works with both groups.
- For active users there is a large keyboard that will get some into text messaging who have trouble with the normal cell phone interface. They can play games and use it to display digital photos.
- For passive users there is a panic button that can bring help quickly, and automated reminders to take medication. Failure to take medicine at the right time is what leads to most emergency room visits, he noted.
"Most of our users will be at least PC literate," he explained. "But cell phones are a hard paradigm for them – they don't text. Given the ergonomics of cell phones they may not text, but current adults use it often. I carry a cell phone more than my PC. That's why we did what we did, getting out of the PC into the cellular.
So what happens now? "We want to create awareness in the next months and we're doing it by letting people touch it as much as possible, while we go direct to consumers through kiosks.
"As we build awareness then we'll start talking about distribution channels, especially telephone distribution channels. They use the same methodology we do, letting people play and get engaged."
I'm hoping it's at Best Buy in time for Christmas 2011.