Why you need to know about IBM’s Elderly Care solution

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IBM has recently partnered with Malteser International (a German emergency services company) to equip over 150 apartments with the IoT sensors and cognitive computing that keeps elderly citizens safe in their homes. When the sensors detect emergencies (e.g., water leakage) or abnormal behavior (door left open during normal sleeping period), emergency services are called to respond and relatives are notified via mobile app. The new IBM Elderly Care solution can revolutionize elderly care. Here are three of its greatest benefits:

1. Elderly care is a solid business case for the connected home

Our homes are increasingly littered with the remnants of gadgets that promised to change the way we live. As device prices drop and elegant product design proliferates, the choice for connected home hardware is exploding. Despite the hype, the business attractiveness for most of these solutions is still unclear. Elderly care, however, has clear benefits and creates immediate opportunities for many businesses. These opportunities include:

  • Home insurers see it as an opportunity to keep customers in their homes, and therefore, paying premiums – longer
  • Health insurers want to prevent their customers from dangerous accidents at home
  • Property developers realize that equipping their buildings with sensors creates the opportunity to earn ongoing services revenue from the property

  • Healthcare providers view elderly care as the next step in telemedicine and in-home health care
  • Employers can provide their employees with peace of mind (and decreased absences) by increasing the safety of elderly parent

With setup costs under $1,200, monthly administration costs under $25 per resident, the payback period on new programs can be as low as 2 or 3 years.


2. The technology isn’t just smart, it’s humane

It isn’t enough for an elderly care system to be technically sound. It must also be fine tuned to the behavioral needs of its customers – from sensors with age-appropriate design, to mobile alerts that grab attention without creating panic.

The center of elderly care’s user experience is a green-yellow-red status. Green shows “everything is fine,” yellow means “unusual behavior detected – potential problem.” Red means “emergency, requiring immediate attention.” Months of user testing were required to calibrate the difference between red and yellow alerts; one person’s emergency can be another person’s distraction.

The mobile app has innovative features, such as the one-touch communication that enable relatives to communicate with each other about the status of an elderly parent (i.e. “I just received a yellow alert about Mom. Don’t worry, I just checked on her”).

The most powerful part of the solution is cognitive analysis in the background. By studying the daily routines of each individual, the software can identify abnormal (and potentially dangerous) behavior. How long is too long for this resident to be in bed? What movement around the apartment in the middle of the night is typical, and what might be a sign of medical emergencies, or an intruder?

3. We’ve scaled up in production, and we have the scars to prove it

The ‘Elderly Care’ demo setup at the Watson IoT Industry Lab

The elderly care solution was scaled up carefully over 24 months. The first pilots enrolled the parents of IBM and Malteser employees, and then the solution was released for open enrollment in late 2017.  We anticipate several thousand homes to be connected by the end of 2018.

As with most IoT solutions, a key hurdle to large-scale usage is a healthy ecosystem of partners. Property developers, emergency services, healthcare providers, insurers, and hardware manufacturers all work together to create the end-to-end user experience. For residents, this starts with a consultation to understand their needs and convert those needs into the specific devices to be activated in their home. For insurers, it means assessing the market opportunity.

Learn more about the IBM Insurance Platform here.
Learn more about IBM Watson Internet of Things here.

Contact us at the Watson IoT Industry Lab:

Insurance Leader

Oliver Hüfner

Project Leader, DACH

Troy Ruemping

Insurance Consultant

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