One of the sessions I sat in on last week at the Ft. Lauderdale Wearables Expo 2016 was presented by Jean Anne Booth, the Founder and CEO of UnaliWear, and it focused on the need for good wearables to address health and safety challenges in and amongst seniors, chronic populations and independent yet vulnerable groups such as the blind or those with Parkinsons, ALS, MS or Downs Syndrome.
For Booth, who describes herself as a serial entrepreneur, UnaliWear is her fourth company and she has done the research to show how much of an opportunity there is in this market for wearables.
She believes wearables can improve the quality of life for the populations I mentioned earlier to help with medication compliance, rehabilitation following surgery or injuries and general safety.
If these groups had a wearable that they wanted to use and if it eliminated many of the reasons wearables tend to land in the sock drawer then it could revolutionize this market which is wide open for innovation.
Some of the key points Booth provided us about this market included:
- Seniors are the fastest growing aspect of the US population
- In 2010 13% of the US population was aged 65+ (40.2 million)
- In 2030 those aged 65+ will account for 20% of the US population (72.1 million)
- 23% of all nursing home admissions are due to lack of medication compliance and adherence
- 10% of all hospitalizations occur because someone did not take their prescribed medications
- Medication non-compliance accounts for $300 billion dollars annually in healthcare costs
- A majority of those aged 65+ have at least one chronic condition and take five or more medicines
- 92% have one or more chronic conditions
- 77% have two or more
- 60% take 5 or more medications; 63% of them say they forget to take some doses
- 12% of seniors take 10 or more medications
One of the other points Booth made about this demographic is that the current wearables market is focused on the younger generation of users who are active and these devices are focused on physical activity and not meeting these other important needs for seniors. The total market opportunities for medication compliance is forecast by 2020 to be between $108 and $188 million dollars.
The next item to consider is current telehealth/telemedicine solutions that are out there however, almost all of them require the users to connect it to their own smartphone. That is a challenge when it comes to a population that is less connected than people think.
Seniors Device Ownership
- Fewer older adults own smartphones
- 80+: 5%
- 75-79: 10%
- 70-74: 21%
- 65-69: 29%
- 55-64: 39%
Booth shared that the opportunity in the vital health alerts market for seniors over the next four years could reach $1.6 billion dollars while personal safety monitoring could be between $1.5 and $2.9 billion dollars.
She said one of the biggest challenges in this market is to get people to wear them but most of the current products are ugly, bulky and some of them bring along social astigmatisms.
Booth conducted focus groups to understand what her target audience was looking for and that resulted in the Kanega watch also known as the "Onstar for People".
Development timeline of the Kanega watch
Some of the innovative features of the Kanega watch include:
- Self contained and does not need WiFi or smartphone; uses a cellular connection
- Voice controlled/activated
- Stylish; no social stigmatism
- Emergency assistance available anytime; assistance can be summoned immediately if a fall was detected, extended periods of no movement or lack of response
- Can provide instructions back home using voice based directions
- Medication reminders with instructions; connected to persons electronic pharmacy and health records
- Spare batteries are carried on the watch itself in case a quick boost in battery power is needed when outside of the home
The Kanega watch was successfully funded on Kickstarter last year and backers are expected to begin receiving their devices this month. General availability is scheduled for summer 2016 and you can get on their pre-order list already.
UnaliWear's mission is to extend independence with dignity for millions of vulnerable seniors. In fact, Booth started the company to assist her own 80 year old mother because of the current state of emergency assistance products on the market.
I had the chance to see the January 2016 pilot versions, one is pictured above - the other one does not have the bling around the watch face, and it appears she has met her goal of designing a product seniors will want to wear because it looks good and is functional.