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This Nightlight-Sized Sensor Helps Keep Seniors Safe In Their Homes

by Holly Beilin

Though Lili Varzi’s mother was aging and needed some assistance, she wanted to remain in her own home. Living just two miles away from Varzi and her husband, Fereydoun Taslimi, her mother felt that the couple could be reassured knowing that she was right down the road, should anything happen.

But one night in mid-2015, she didn’t answer the phone. After calling several times to no avail, a nervous Varzi and Taslimi got in the car at 11 p.m. and drove to her mother’s house, banging on the door in case she had fallen or fainted. 

“We run down there, all worried, and she’s sitting there watching TV,” says Taslimi. The experience inspired the two Georgia Tech graduates to think about what caregivers really need to know about those they’re responsible for.

“Life is not always about emergencies. People just want to know if their parents are okay most of the time and be able to get a hold of them,” he says.

Taslimi was not only a caregiver, but a technologist and serial entrepreneur. He estimates he’s started 11 companies, about half of which have been successful. Those products included a multilingual computer, a smart telephone switch, voice processing software, and several others.

He was in the midst of working on another startup when the scary experience with his wife’s mother occurred. He hit the drawing board and came up with Sensorscall, an IoT startup building a wall sensor that monitors home environmental conditions.

The CareAlert sensor, which resembles a nightlight, measures eight environmental factors, including motion, light, humidity, temperature and pressure. By establishing a baseline and looking at changes in these factors, the sensors can determine living patterns and habits.

For example, someone taking a shower will signal a change in humidity in the bathroom. Analyzing motion and light in the morning and evening can tell you what time someone typically wakes up or goes to sleep.

Once the baselines are established, Taslimi says they can accurately detect abnormalities. 

“Your mom is taking a shower, which takes usually 15, 20 minutes. Well, one day she’s taking an hour — that’s unusual. Or your dad, in the middle of night he usually gets up and goes to the bathroom one time, but last night he got up and went to the bathroom five times. Is he feeling sick?”

Taslimi says they can even preventatively catch health problems. Take the humidity measure, which can sense if the air quality in an asthmatic person’s home is poor.

The company recommends placing at least three, but up to five or even more, of the sensors around the home to accurately capture environmental conditions and activity patterns.

CareAlert not only collects and shares this data in real-time, but also solves the other challenge Taslimi and Varzi faced as caregivers: communication. If they had been able to reach Varzi’s mother, they wouldn’t have had to make the urgent dash to her house.

CareAlert contains a two-way speaker system that allows caregivers to communicate with their loved ones through the startup’s mobile app. Caregivers can even set verbal alerts and notifications such as medication reminders.

“Many times kids just call their parents, and they just want to know whether they get up in the morning and they’re okay,” Taslimi says. They’re working on features that could detect issues in the home, such as leaving the oven on. 

The device integrates with the most popular smart home systems, such as Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, and Microsoft Cortana. And Taslimi says its built-in AI continuously learns and improves as it learns the home dwellers’ habits.

Taslimi acknowledges that CareAlert might at first appear slightly intrusive, but says they have developed the device to maintain as much individual privacy as possible. It doesn’t listen to words or record conversations, and there is no video component.

“We don’t store data, we just analyze it, interpret it immediately and give the information to you,” he tells Hypepotamus.

The Atlanta-based startup plans to have the CareAlert device ready for commercial sale in the second quarter of 2019. The hardware will cost about $140 per sensor, with discounts available for buying more, plus an annual or monthly software subscription fee.

Taslimi says they have been bootstrapped thus far and would only consider bringing on investors if they were strategically aligned.

“We’re in a very interesting market because our message is so simple that everybody gets it,” he says. “We say one line and people understand what we’re doing.”

Photos provided by Sensorscall

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