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9 March 2018

Doro unveils SmartCare service as industry ponders integration opportunity

Swedish senior-friendly smartphone flinger Doro has announced a new elderly care offering, centered around in-home hardware that can monitor a resident’s wellbeing and call for help if needed. Called SmartCare, the system is supported by new Alarm Receiving Centers (ARC) that Doro is building in the UK and Irish launch markets – and is due for commercial launch in early 2019.

The automatic alarms and notifications should ensure that falls or accidents in the home can be treated more quickly, which has obvious benefits to the person but also wider benefits to their supporting healthcare services – as quicker responses typically result in better outcomes, which usually helps keep costs of care down too.

But Doro isn’t only pushing the emergency response angle. SmartCare will be able to use its in-home sensors to monitor a person’s activity. This should let the system spot changes in behavior that might be indicative of a problem that requires investigating. Sudden increases in trips to the bathroom or longer durations are one such example, as are changes in sleep patterns, but this extends to things like checking to see if the person is still eating routinely.

This evidence-based approach is particularly important when dealing with older people, as their memories are typically less reliable than those of younger blood. With enough data, Doro could spot a deviation in behavior that might help prevent a small problem from growing into a much more damaging and costlier episode.

The results can be presented through web and smartphone applications, which can round-up events or trends. A dashboard can show that levels of activity and bathroom visits were normal, but that the person spent an above-average time in bed or going to the bathroom through the night. It can also alert users that device batteries might need changing too, to keep the system online.

There seems to be a strong market for direct-to-consumer offerings here, although Doro could also pursue partnerships with healthcare providers – public or private. Doro’s research found that some 25% of UK adults have some duty of care towards a senior person, with 62% saying they are often worried about something happening to that person without their knowledge.

Consequently, Doro is aiming to provide a smart home system that does not rely on the person having a fall-detecting pendant or bracelet on their person at all times, or having a phone in their pocket. Similarly, the company is trying to do this in a way that doesn’t require video surveillance – as many people are uncomfortable bringing such monitoring into their homes.

Doro is offering SmartCare in an open architecture, supporting third-party devices and integrations. The alarms and notifications that the cloud-based system generates can be shared with family, friends, and care providers, and even let emergency services respond if needed.

Based on lessons learned from its previous Doro Connect and Doro Care offerings, the company says it has great insights and experience in providing this kind of service. Doro sells some phones and watches that can communicate with those ARC call centers, as well as its Doro 3500 Bluetooth alarm trigger.

These products are part of the Doro Care range, which can let a person send a message to one of these devices asking ‘are you okay,’ and should no response be received, the ARC center can locate the device via GPS. Geo-fencing alerts are also available, to alert someone if a person has left a defined area.

Speaking to Peter Marsden, MD of the Doro UK and Ireland wing, he said that a few things had changed in the background over the past few months. Doro Care had been a separate subsidiary, providing ‘button in a box’ telecare units to typical customers that included local council social services.

Now, the two sides of Doro have been merged, and Doro Care is pursuing the B2C opportunity for its hardware and services. In addition, Doro is looking to set up new ARCs in France and Germany, to support roll-outs there, as well as promoting its open API for device and platform integrations with third-parties.

With the starter kit of 5 devices enough of a basis for proactive calls based on the data gathered, Marsden stresses that the clever stuff takes place behind the scenes. He said that the secret sauce is in the boxes, in the analytics capabilities, which apparently are using machine-learning tools to aid in their predictive abilities.

Currently, the hub uses an Ethernet connection to get onto the in-home network, but Doro is considering adding SIM-card support for homes that might not have a broadband connection. Sold with a 12-month subscription, SmartCare will hope to trade on Doro’s established reputation. The older Doro Care business accounted for around 20% of Doro turnover, and Marsden is confident that SmartCare will help grow this wing’s revenues – once it graduates to commercial readiness in 2019.

As for future developments, Marsden says that video is a very sensitive topic, but one that needs to be carefully integrated. There are no plans to have a video device bundled at launch, but it sounds like Doro is open to such a system if it can assuage privacy concerns.