Two entrepreneurs in Middle America have launched a system globally that could revolutionize the way baby boomers care for their aging parents.
Bryan Jefferson and Scott Mosher have been deploying SmartCare in hundreds of retirement community rooms in Missouri—where they are headquartered—and several other states since early 2015. They began working on the technology in 2012.
Jefferson and Mosher are making the cloud-based technology available for shipping and self-installation all over the world this year.
A technical director and marketing professional, respectively, Jefferson and Mosher co-founded SmartCare Consultants in St. Charles, MO, with the goal of using a managed technology service to keep senior adults safe and in their own homes longer.
The technology utilizes a series of pre-programmed data-collecting sensors to allow senior care providers to monitor and alert on the activities of seniors in their homes or care communities.
Through what they call virtual sensing technology, the SmartCare system measures daily living patterns and proactively reports if movement or activities seem out of the ordinary.
A complex platform gathers and measures changes in a resident's activity based on multiple data sensors.
“In essence, the SmartCare technology is similar to that of a learning thermostat, a cloud-based system personalized to each customer,” Jefferson said. “We write rules based on what remote caregivers need to know: Are they in bed? Did they eat? Did they go to the bathroom? One size does not necessarily fit all.”
The sensors—strategically placed around the senior’s living space—communicate through a control system to a main computer server. That server provides information that is then analyzed to actually learn the normal behaviors of the individual. When those behaviors change, the caregiver is notified. Caregivers and family members remotely monitor seniors from any device via a web-based monitoring dashboard.
Contact sensors are placed in beds and couches and toilets and on wall posts and doors. They are triggered by motion, heat, pressure, water, and light. All sensors talk wirelessly to the server, collecting information on the person being monitored. It takes roughly two weeks for the system to collect sufficient functional data to "learn" an individual’s daily routines and habits. When individuals deviate from those routines and habits, the system alerts the caregiver.
For example, if a senior’s normal behavior is to get out of bed in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, the system learns that behavior. If a senior takes longer than usual to move from one place in the room to another or doesn’t access water, food, or medication at the usual times, the system will know because it has logged those behaviors. The system learns the loss of pressure in the bed, the motion to and from the bathroom. Other sensors can detect the possibility that a stove was left on and the senior left the house, or the garage door is open and the senior is asleep.
Mosher said SmartCare isn’t just for seniors. In fact, the company is seeking to branch out to serve other populations such as the developmentally disabled or mentally ill. In the case of a schizophrenic, for example, aberrations to normal behavior patterns might alert a family member that their loved one has gone off their meds; or if someone starts making eight trips to the bathroom every night instead of their normal four, it can trigger concerns about a urinary tract infection or dehydration.
SmartCare doesn’t require wearables, such as bracelets or necklaces. There is no video monitoring. Rather, the technology is designed to be the least intrusive possible while still providing crucial data to remote or onsite caregivers to alert them when a senior gets in trouble. And the longer the sensors are used, the more the program knows about the common behaviors of the person.
“For this population, wearable technology isn't practical,” Mosher said. “They are forgotten. They break. They aren't always accessible in an emergency. Wearables just may not be enough when a life is at stake.”
Many nursing facilities are equipped with antiquated technology or no technology at all, said Mosher, president of SmartCare Consultants. “They’re using pull chords and walkie talkies and belts, and it doesn’t have to be that way.”
The SmartCare system can be used in senior living facilities or private residences. SmartCare is now contracted to be in thousands of senior facility rooms across the country.
By 2020 there will be well over a billion seniors worldwide, Jefferson said. “And just like baby boomers changed the paradigm for ‘birthing,’ they will surely have a big influence in changing how aging seniors choose to live and die,” he said. “Current research on ‘aging at home’ proves that the more control a senior has over making daily activity choices such as when or what to eat or when to go to bed, the less senile they become versus going into a home where they make many fewer day-to-day decisions and go downhill much faster.”
Every year or so, SmartCare plans to roll out upgrades and new technologies such as nurse call integration options, to page on-call care givers when there’s an anomaly, and facial recognition capabilities, to reduce theft and false alarms.
This year, they’re rolling out the shippable, virtually do-it-yourself SmartCare system. Mosher said the company is currently working with a large box retailer for sales and distribution. “We need a good distributor with quite a presence for set up. They need a call center that can handle technical questions and health-related questions and issues,” he said.
In the meantime, Mosher said SmartCare is becoming smarter as well. The company has been in constant consultation with geriatrics professionals since its inception on the needs of the elderly, as well as how to make the system easier to use.
In less than two years, SmartCare has added critical components to the technology that track changes in sleep patterns, varying temperatures in the home and bathroom usage, all of which can indicate side effects of medications, dehydration, pneumonia, or falls.
Mosher said with every new client comes added information on what older adults need from SmartCare. “As we monitor them, it allows us to change our algorithms to be more specific,” he said.
When a facility or an individual purchases SmartCare, installation, training, and ongoing maintenance is included, along with the design for their own customized plan.
Each resident or individual has a secure online dashboard where all health and wellness data appears in easy-to-understand graphics. The data is updated continually, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Participants select the notifications they want and to whom they will go. These are conveyed within minutes of the event to a smartphone, by text, email, or supported paging systems. Any other reports, including summaries, sleeping reports, health and wellness trends are emailed upon request, as often as the participant chooses.
Mosher said the goal is for the technology to cost all users less than a dollar a day. Until now, the company has been working with facilities while piloting the program in private homes. Senior facilities have purchased the hardware and paid a daily maintenance fee.
Jefferson and Mosher are also considering the long-term impact that SmartCare’s data collection capabilities have on predicting the likelihood of seniors and younger people contracting certain conditions and diseases. They are currently partnering with universities and education institutions to use their algorithms to collect and share data on patterns of human behavior that might help solve a wide swath of medical problems.
For Jefferson, finding solutions for seniors and others who require constant care is personal. His brother suffers from schizophrenia. His father has battled multiple serious illnesses all of his life. But it was his grandmother’s death that propelled him to take the idea of SmartCare from a dream to reality. Jefferson said his grandmother died alone in her room at a nursing facility as a result of being unable to call for help.
After her death, Jefferson drew from his extensive knowledge of “smart” technology and created SmartCare Consultants to provide around-the-clock transparent care. His first client was his dad, who had become wheelchair-bound. His father lived 2,000 miles away from him, and Jefferson wanted to be able to take care of him without being overly intrusive.
“Imagine caring for an elderly loved one, helping them live safely in place, with dignity and independence,” Jefferson said. “SmartCare provides true 24-hour transparent care through non-obtrusive, intuitive devices that monitor senior’s daily activities, reporting anomalies and helping caregivers respond to problems, making sure they are eating, drinking, bathing and remaining active. There is a light that comes on under their bed when they stand up that immediately reduces falls by over 50%. We offer peace of mind while keeping families connected because no one should ever be left in the dark.”
To learn more about SmartCare or to see a demonstration, call 855.878.3762 or visit www.smartcareconsultants.com.