Raleigh, N.C. (Forbes) – December 17, 2018 – Kuldip Pabla says it’s a misconception that senior adults “do not like or want technology,” and that error alone has caused the development of technology for older adults to lag behind that of younger people. Pabla is the senior vice president of engineering for K4Connect, a technology company that creates smart solutions for older adults and individuals living with disabilities. As such he has come up with five predictions that he says we should expect to see in the tech space for older adults in 2019.
As the world’s fastest growing demographic (by 2050 the number of older persons is expected reach 2.1 billion), “older adults both need and want technology that’s built specifically for them,” Pabla said.
He’s not wrong, at least about the aging demographic and how it is expected to change the world. According to the United Nations, “population ageing is poised to become one of the most significant social transformations of the twenty-first century, with implications for nearly all sectors of society, including labor and financial markets, the demand for goods and services, such as housing, transportation and social protection, as well as family structures and intergenerational ties.”
The following are five ways Pabla believes technology will change the lives of seniors and perhaps everyone else in 2019:
1. Consolidation of the senior-care vendor market:
“It’s a fact that the technology industry has lagged in engaging and serving the older adult market,” Pabla said. “This gave way, in the interim, to several niche vendors selling point products or single feature apps addressing older adult and senior living markets.” But this approach has put an unreasonable burden on senior living executives and older adults to play the role of system integrator and support specialist when it comes to attempting to create enterprise solutions—a huge barrier and cost for seniors as well as caregivers, assisted living and independent living community operators and loved ones, he said.
“Imagine a CxO [corporate executive] with a very small team dealing with 40 plus vendors to handle the digital transformation of their community or a senior dealing with 10 apps or more along with the various disparate smart devices to manage different aspects of their lives, Pabla said. “Not only is this an expensive approach, but one that is also time consuming and chaotic."
Instead, with true enterprise platforms and through associated vendor consolidation, in 2019 CxOs will need to deal with fewer vendors, drive more and more value, and ultimately will see, in Pabla's view, an acceleration of technology adoption in the space. "The value creation does not stop at the community, as these new integrated enterprise approaches will also dramatically improve user experience and value creation for older adults and residents as well. During 2019, we will see a beginning of consolidation in this market, where players with 360-degree services around the residents will start gaining traction,” he said.
An enterprise platform integrates multiple services from one or more vendors into a wholistic solution that provides a single and consistent user experience across services. It enables customers to interface with a single vendor, eliminates many older systems, and ultimately can eliminate the need to deal with multiple vendors.
It’s important to note that while there are various apps (or products) seemingly coming out every day, very few are designed specifically for older adults, Pabla said. “Most of these apps might be complete in themselves and can be used independently. However, they can provide a much better and holistic user experience when integrated together. To achieve this broadly integrated solution, a well architected platform plays a critical role.”
Pabla offers a few examples of the type of solutions which are often disparate, but have the capacity to be pulled together in senior living communities:
a. Community Calendars: Each community publishes daily, weekly and monthly calendars often across various service areas including wellness, trips and entertainment. Today, communities are using various tools to create, print and publish these calendars including design tools, word processors, slide creation or other online services. To make things more challenging, due to the limited nature and age of many of the tools in the space, the communities often have to re-enter data in various programs to get the information to print, the web, digital signage or even a resident app or portal.
b. Dining Management: Executives are ultimately managing 1 to as many as 10 different restaurants and cafes in their communities. Keeping menus, daily specials, reservations and special events up to date is a challenge. Much like community calendar management, we see various tools and templates used to solve pieces of the work flow. However, most communities are forced to do a lot of manual rework due to tooling limitations.
c. Digital Signage: Like hotels, older adult communities have multiple televisions to publish various content (announcements, calendars, events, daily specials, etc.). Digital signage enables communities to manage and publish contents to multiple screens simultaneously.
d. Others including surveys, family/staff/resident communications, resident directories and service requests (maintenance, housekeeping, etc.).
2. Digital transformation in senior care begins:
There are nearly 50 million seniors in the U.S. and nearly one billion around the world. These numbers are expected to grow aggressively in the next few decades. At the same time, there is a growing shortage of skilled workers to help with the rising demand for caregivers. “This massively growing shortage is one of the biggest potential global challenges we will face,” Pabla said. “To address the skilled labor gap in 2019 and beyond, CxO’s will look to technology to fill the void. To be clear this is not technology replacing jobs, but rather technology solutions that will provide caregivers with the ability to scale impact. This market reality will lead to a steady transformation of a hands-on labor-intensive market to a digitally enhanced market, which is at the same time high touch and high tech. Those that embrace the digital transformation will find caregiver job satisfaction improvements, reductions in turnover and senior living communities will be able to archive, search and retrieve data to meet auditing and compliance requirements on the fly—saving time and energy to meet the regulations.”
So the goal is not to replace the workforce, rather to use technology to provide caregivers and staff members with the ability to serve more and more people. “There are endless reports of the pending caregiver shortage globally and we believe technology is going to be a key part of the solution,” Pabla said.
3. New technology enabled business models:
The business model in senior living communities has been evolving for decades, Pabla said, but it has not been “revolutionized.”
“While the buildings, the amenities, the services, etc. have all evolved to meet the needs of next generation residents, the business model itself has stagnated,” he said. “That is all about to change. In 2019 new models will accelerate, all enabled by technology.” Two great examples are the much talked about, but rarely seen in practice, “CCRC without Walls” and “@Home” programs. Pabla said these programs are rooted in solid logic.
“Communities often have excess capacity or economies of scale across services like wellness, culinary, caregiving and events/programming. At the same time many older adults may want to continue to live at home a bit longer,” he said. “Smart technology solutions such as smart home, smart wellness and smart living will unlock the ability for communities to drive new lines of revenue and expanding their impact by serving these new sets of customers. Leading communities know they need to continue to evolve, and they know technology is going to be key in unlocking the potential."
4. Deeper end-to-end voice first user experience:
Despite the many studies that say technology adoption within the older adults market is growing at unprecedented rates, many older adults still experience difficulties with technologies that are often designed for people decades younger than them, Pabla said. But Pabla is convinced “Voice” is the solution to that. “In 2019, we’ll see an acceleration of Voice becoming more popular among seniors as it can provide an easier, natural and deeper experience for interfacing with technology,” he said. “In 2019 voice solutions in senior living will move out of pilot mode and into full deployments. Voice has come a long way over the last 25 years. With advancements in machine learning algorithms, voice has become really personalized. Voice is being used to identify and authenticate an individual. Older adults may have age-related impairments, such as dry skin or vision problems leading to inability to use touch. Voice can help older adults overcome some of those impairments. Additionally, voice provides a natural way of interacting that doesn’t require tech savviness.”
In addition, Voice solutions require less training and provide a more natural interface, and as voice models improve they provide a truly conversational interface, Pabla said. The fusion of voice with smart home, smart wellness, machine learning and relevant contents will provide a superior and contextual user experience, he said, adding that the service providers and communities who will succeed with voice in 2019 will be the ones who focus on enterprise deployment, enterprise management, enterprise support, and enterprise analytics.
5. Introduction of data and machine learning for predictive analytics:
With smart home technologies such as lights and thermostats already taking deeper roots in the homes of older adults and senior living communities, the next step will be a move toward predicting healthcare, Pabla said. “Over the next year, it will be mainly a manual way of predicting by correlating data from different sources, however, over time it will be algorithmic,” he said. For example, correlating what was eaten with sleeping patterns and the fluctuation in vital statistics could lead to a prediction of what’s coming and how it can be avoided. “Specifically, senior living communities, home care and health agencies and even insurance companies will be interested in predictive healthcare as it will help them foresee and avoid (or delay) impending health events all while empowering the older adults they serve to live richer more engage lives,” he said.
Though these technologies—including the Internet of Things, or IoT—have been around for over two decades, Pabla said he believes 2019 in particular is going to see overall increased usage. “IoT has been around in one form or the other for over 20 years,” he said. “OSGi, Java Embedded Server, Jini, JXTA were all enablers of IoT, home automation and industry automation. However, there were two problems: limited interoperability and no killer applications in general and specifically for the older adult market. Even if anything existed, they were point products which were not easily usable and often did not integrate due to incompatible protocols.”
In contrast, in 2019, the power of enterprise platforms will see integration of these technologies to provide a wholistic solution with the fusion of voice, machine learning and contextual contents, Pabla said. “The platform approach will provide a way better user experience by understanding individual requirements and overcoming age related impairments.”
But how will people afford them? According to Pabla, various key factors make this particular time in history a break-out time in terms of affordability. Here’s why:
“Smart device costs are, and have been, reducing in price year after year for some time. The difference between a watch and a smart watch or a thermostat and a smart thermostat has become nominal,” he said. “At the same time, smart devices like thermostats, lights, etc. can and do drive measurable cost savings from energy and utility management to preventative maintenance.”
“Digital transformation in other industries always led to savings and we expect the same here,” Pabla said. “Reduction in rework, responsible system, improved access to data will allow for massive savings.”
Pabla said he realizes that there will always be individuals who are not interested in new technology or those that are apprehensive about its reach. Nevertheless, he says from helping caregivers provide better care, to aiding family caregivers in the management of caring for a loved one, “I simply find it hard to believe given the shifting demographics, the pending caregiver shortage and the advancements in technology that we won’t see an evolution here,” he said. “In fact, we are already seeing this today. An Apple Watch can allow a user to take an EKG. And if they want to they can share that with a care professional. By predicting if an older adult is about to fall sick or have a chance of chronic problem, measures could be taken to well in advance to prevent it.”
For more information, please visit: https://www.forbes.com/sites/robinseatonjefferson/2018/12/17/smart-tech-engineer-predicts-five-changes-coming-in-2019-in-tech-space-for-older-adults/#336a8bd84cbf
K4Connect is a mission-centered technology company creating connected-life solutions that serve and empower older adults and individuals living with disabilities, and those that support them. K4Connect’s products encourage simpler, healthier and happier lives by integrating the latest technologies, enabling more independent and healthier lives, while fostering social connection. The Company’s first product, K4Community, is specifically designed for the residents, staff and operators of senior living communities and currently serves thousands across the U.S. For more information, please visit www.k4connect.com.