The Silicon Review
“It’s important to connect those ‘Aging in Place’ with their screen-generation friends and family so they can live happier and healthier.”
Digital innovation is being embraced by the senior-caregiving community and seniors themselves. Medical alert systems, smartphones, sensors, voice-activated devices, and artificial intelligence are working collectively to build effective, powerful solutions for aging adults and their families.
We’re pleased to present Speak2 Software -- a convenient, affordable solution that uses an Amazon Echo (Alexa) to bridge the gap between aging loved ones and their families and caretakers. Speak2’s mission is to connect the screen generation to the aging generation by making it easy for people to communicate in the way that best suits them.
Speak2 was incorporated in 2019 and is headquartered in Newark, New Jersey, and serves nationwide.
Matt Smith, Speak2 Software CEO, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.
Q. What motivated you to develop a dedicated voice assistant for the elderly?
My relationship and admiration for my parents run deep. They grew up with hardships – each of them lost a parent at an early age and built their life without the benefit of privilege. Together, they used that hardship to build an incredibly successful life for themselves and their four sons. Mom was always the center of our universe, and all communication went through Mom. As technology evolved, and everyone moved to smartphones – texting, Facebook, Instagram, etc. – mom became less the center of the universe. This led to isolation and both parents aging into their 90s became lonely. With the emergence of smart speakers like ‘Alexa’, I saw an opportunity to solve this problem. I was able to connect the screen-based generation to my aging parents which put mom back in the center of our universe -- as it should be.
Q. Explain your product/service in brief.
Speak2 is a platform that connects aging adults to their friends and family by allowing them to communicate in the easiest way possible – their voice. Seniors can send and receive messages, record activities, and make requests for assistance through an Amazon Echo (Alexa). The circle of trusted friends and family can interact using the web, app, or voice devices. We connect the screen generation to our aging loved ones.
Q. The stress of adjusting to a new device can be difficult for seniors. What factors did you consider before developing this revolutionary strategy?
The key is simplicity. With our audience, it was very important to make the interactions simple. The tool asks how it can help, and you tell it how. It then asks for a few details, if appropriate, and confirms what you discussed. The confirmation aspect is essential; as it provides the comfort and security that your message was properly delivered. Making these interactions pleasant helps us to drive adoption. Needless to say, family members want to use Speak2 because they gain pleasure and security from it.
Q. How does your service affect the lifestyle of aging adults?
One myth about our aging population is that they do not want or have the ability to learn. Nothing could be further from the truth. What they do not want is to be vulnerable or feel like a burden. This applies to anyone but our aging population especially. Smart speakers enable our users to learn and engage in the world of technology and information that has been previously shut off to them. Speak2 takes this a step further by enabling them to engage directly with the people in their life in a meaningful way. It leads to higher engagement and less isolation. Consumers send and receive five times more texts than they make or receive calls. It’s because it typically is more convenient for both parties. We bring our aging loved ones back into the mix without complications or bottlenecks.
Q. The cost of caring for an aging adult can be high. How do you make this more affordable for caregivers and their families?
Visibility and communication! Everyone should know what is being done, by whom, and when. Speak2 delivers that accountability. A caregiver is a hands-on role. They need to know what the person you’re caring for needs. Transparency for all parties is key -- adult children, grandchildren, neighbors, friends, and professional caregivers alike. What are their habits, what have they eaten, how active are they, where do they want to go, what do they need?
When you make it easier for caregivers to get this information, there is more accurate real-time information and improved coordination and communication among their group. This saves time, lowers costs, and provides more peace of mind for everyone involved.
Q. The healthcare industry seems divided on the benefit of voice assistants. Will variations of the current technology feature in the hospital rooms of the future?
I disagree that people are divided on the benefits; I believe it more accurate to say that they are concerned about privacy. The problem is HIPAA. There are very strict rules on what is allowed and not allowed, and the penalties -- both monetary and the impact to people -- can be severe if broken. This is being addressed by many large players in the industry. However, until there is a sense of security and privacy, it will be challenging to change this perception. People believe Alexa is ‘listening’ to them 24/7. This is a major misconception. Alexa listens in for its ‘wake word’, and then it records what is said only for a moment to see what the speaker wants. There is potential for inadvertent engagement and privacy issues. On the other hand, people seem unaware or don’t care that their smartphone listens in, and they listen regardless of a ‘wake word’. However, smartphones are ubiquitous and because they do more than ‘listen’, people don’t have the same negative perception. I believe voice will get there soon, but there are a few hurdles to get over first.
Q. There are other major players in the voice assistant segment for healthcare. How do you stand out from the rest?
We are proud that we focus on a specific segment and solve real-world problems today. Other companies in the space are addressing bigger, longer-term capabilities. This is great. It will be amazing if a smart speaker can determine if a person is having a stroke or some other ailment. But these are aspirational at this moment. We want to address the real problem that exists around isolation and connectivity. We are rooting for the industry as a whole and we want other companies to continue with the great work they are doing. We want to focus on our part and impact as many people as we can in a positive way.
Q. Do you have any new services/products launching soon?
We have exciting features that we plan to roll out over the next few months. More services that connect existing technologies like wearables and sensors. We view our mission as helping people and we are always finding new ways to do that. Keep an eye out.
Matt Smith: A Reliable Leader
Matt Smith is a serial entrepreneur with a strong background in software and healthcare. He is passionate about making things better – for his customers and the world at large. After over 20 years in technology, Matt decided that his focus would be on making an impact on people’s lives. He has had two previous successful companies that were purchased by larger companies in the industry.