Comcast Is Developing A New Device That Could Help Seniors Age In Place

May 24, 2019

Telecommunications giant Comcast is working to develop an in-home device to monitor people’s health. The device is designed to help caregivers and medical professionals monitor elderly or disabled patients for injuries or unhealthy behaviors. Comcast aims to begin pilot-testing the device later this year.

The device is being developed by a team under Sumit Nagpal, the senior vice president and general manager of health innovation at Comcast. Nagpal, who previously worked at the consulting firm Accenture, has been developing the device for over a year. If pilot-testing goes well, the device may be commercially released as early as 2020.

But what exactly does the device do?

According to CNBC, the device will monitor people’s basic health metrics using ambient sensors. These sensors focus on whether someone is spending more time than usual in bed or if they’re making frequent trips to the bathroom.

Comcast is also developing devices that can help detect falls. Approximately 11.6 million people use canes, walkers, or crutches, and one in three seniors suffers a serious stairway fall every year. A fall-monitoring device could help to prevent fall-related fatalities.

Comcast plans to offer its upcoming health-related device and related services to at-risk people, which include seniors and those living with disabilities who need assisted care. For instance, arthritis and other joint diseases affect 350 million people around the world and make it difficult to get around.

The device isn’t a smart home device; it won’t be able to turn the lights on and off or make Google searches. The device will have a personality similar to other technological assistants, though.

It will be able to make emergency phone calls on the user’s behalf and in case of a health-related event. If the user hasn’t moved from the bed in a longer-than-usual time and they don’t respond to the automation, the device may call emergency services in the event the user has suffered a heart attack or stroke.

While a health-monitoring in-home device may make some people nervous, it could also potentially give more independence to seniors while also giving caregivers peace of mind. When businesses are losing almost $62 billion annually as a result of poor customer service, vigilance on Comcast’s part could give them a big advantage with this particular product. Elderly Americans are increasingly choosing to age in place, preferring to stay in the comfort of their own homes rather than move into an assisted-living home.

This is officially Comcast’s first device in the health sector, but it’s not its first automated tech. Comcast has previously dipped its feet into voice search with a remote that responds to commands to search for movies and TV shows.

Comcast just started exploring technological opportunities for advancement in the health sector a few years ago. In 2018, the company partnered with insurer Independence Health Group. This brought the telecommunications giant into competition with other major tech companies including Apple, Amazon, and Google.

These three companies have also been looking to develop new technology that would give seniors the ability to age in place. Apple recently added a heart health tracking and fall detection application to its smartwatch. This could save urgent care centers the trouble of sending 3% of patients to the ER — with a smart device, injured individuals would already be directed to the appropriate venue. Google is considering using Nest and Google Home devices in senior living facilities. Considering that falls are a big cause of injury (and the number one cause of death in the construction industry alone), monitoring and emergency assistance in these situations could be life-saving.

Amazon is a little further behind but has been exploring new opportunities for seniors in the last few years. Comcast has a leg up in the competition because the company is already popular among homeowners through its cable and broadband business.

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