Each day, more than 10,000 people reach the retirement age of 65 throughout the United States. And while many seniors benefit from certain financial and medical protections, that doesn’t always safeguard them from harm. But one tech startup is hoping to help seniors stay safe.
One of the biggest physical risks for many seniors is the seemingly simple slip-and-fall incident. According to recent data, nearly 9,500 fatalities among older Americans are attributed to trips and falls every year, with approximately 20% to 30% of those who fall experiencing severe complications and even disabilities as a result. And because over 50% of all falls take place within the home among older adults, one company is vowing to take action to ensure the home is truly a haven for many seniors.
Cherry Labs created an in-home alarm and surveillance system, known as Cherry Home, that’s powered by artificial intelligence to do just that. It can detect and track residents using microphones, compasses, vision sensors, and complex algorithms. Its creators claim that the AI system can actually distinguish different people by their faces, limb lengths, hair colors, clothing, postures, and gaits.
The idea here is to be able to prevent a fall before it actually occurs, so the information captured by the system is transmitted in real time through video footage and audio recordings (which can include instances of stumbles, cries, shouts, and other activities) over a Wi-Fi network to a separate PC equipped with a backup battery. The computer saves and analyzes that data before delivering it to caregivers and medical professionals so that they can ascertain whether the seniors in question might benefit from further treatment. If and when a more serious fall or other incident occurs, the system will send an alert to family members, nurses, and other caregivers to ensure the individual can receive help.
Although police respond to 38 million alarm activations every year, an AI system like this would probably be more precise — or at least more helpful — than a false alarm notification through a home security system. Backers evidently felt the same way, as Cherry Labs announced they’d received $5.2 million in funding from GSR ventures. That funding will allow for a pilot program partnership with TriCura, a mobile app platform geared towards information sharing between caregivers and agencies, and TheraCare, a service that provides caregivers for those in need.
While it isn’t clear whether the average senior or familial caregiver will be able to afford the Cherry Home System (its tentative costs can range up to $2,000 for coverage of six rooms, plus a monthly subscription fee), the startup isn’t the only one developing similar tools to help older populations. They are, however, providing services that other platforms currently aren’t. For one thing, the video captured is processed locally (meaning it never leaves the premises) and the identity of the seniors in these videos will be protected through unique means. It’s also one of the only tools that could monitor changes in behaviors, rather than just major falls, to help caregivers be more effective at their jobs and ensure seniors receive the care they need when no one else is around.
Max Goncharov, CEO and co-founder of Cherry Home, noted in a statement: “Understanding human behavior has a long list of applications, from home security to in-home senior care to the overall goal of making smart homes totally autonomous. But improving senior care is arguably one of the most important areas for technological improvement.”