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Help, I need feedback.


I am trying to start a new service to improve the lives of mobility challenged seniors and individuals with physical disabilities by installing and supporting voice based home automation systems ( Amazon Alexa, Google Home, . . . control of lights, tv, window shades etc).


It's 2019 and the technology exists to make a difference.


At this point I need to gather feedback from the community to determine the business viability of the concept. Also I urgently need a minimum of survey responses as a requirement of a entrepreneurship competition I am participating in.



I'd also welcome general suggestions, and input from anyone interested in working with me on the project.

Find Care & Housing
Anyone wanting to start a new service and collect survey responses needs to follow up, if one wants to achieve their minimum. imo.
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I use the Alexa basic functionality myself and I also love it. My 4 year old grand-nephew loves it too: from the fire stick a "find mickey mouse" displays a list of mickey mouse movies and shows and he can play the mickey mouse club by selecting it's icon. I like being able to play an audio book at bedtime with just one button press and a voice command.

The reason I use the Alexa from the fire stick is that Alexa only starts listening when I press a button on the fire stick remote. With the Amazon Echo, Alexa is _always_ listening and transferring a recording of every conversation to the Amazon cloud where it remains for years. In an attempt to be more open about what's on the Amazon servers, Amazon allows account holders to play some of the recorded data. One of my favorite demonstrations of this security venerability is playing a "private" conversation two SILs have in the kitchen about their mutual MIL... Someone outside your home monitoring network packets with a basic sniffer app on a smartphone can determine someone is home by the message traffic even when they can not break the encryption and actually read or listen to the traffic content.

I agree with PaddyDaddy that there are lots of applications where Alexa could be very useful (or fun) with just the basic functionality provided by a fire-stick or Echo, provided the user understands what Alexa is doing. My disabled friend loves it but wanted to be able to completely turn off the Echo he placed in his bedroom to maintain a normal privacy level in that area of his home. There is a generational split along privacy lines with many people under 30 or so who have grown up with smartphones and facebook simply stating "There is no such thing as privacy." with older folks wanting to maintain privacy within the walls of their home. I have google location services enabled on my phone so google knows everywhere I have been but I do not allow apps to display my current location or even my location history to others. How much of your data you want out for public consumption is a personal choice.
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Your target clients would need to be in an age group that would trust and allow you into their homes.

What about Veterans who would like to remain independent but are mobility challenged?
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GardenArtist Sep 17, 2019
Send, the VA has made a lot of progress (according to their newsletters) in extending their reach-out capability to Veterans, especially those who are wounded or have multiple amputations and are severely compromised.

I just read about one innovation, which I don't remember all that well, but it's using some type of computer adaptability.   I'll check my newsletters and update you if you're interested.   The application is much broader than an Alexa type machine, but I think you're on the right track in thinking how it can help.   As can guide dogs trained to assist for war induced injuries.

BTW, are you aware that at least one Veteran is hiking cross country to raise awareness for wounded Veterans?  And that HUD has a branch working with Freedom Flippers to provide free housing for (a)  Veterans  (b) First Responders  (c)  Medical personnel, and (d)  Educators?
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I did this very thing for my wife. She has difficulty getting around and uses a walker. But there is always the danger of a fall and she cannot get up by herself if that happens. So I installed 3 Amazon Alexa's strategically placed through the house and if she needs me for anything she can call me on the phone by just saying "Alexa call Ken". It has made things easier for her and I feel much better knowing she can always get hold of me even if she left her phone in the other room, which is usually the case. So personally I think you should look into this as it is cheaper than a lot of other solutions and just as useful. Good luck!
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GardenArtist Sep 17, 2019
Now this is a GOOD use of an Alexa type machine.   I like it.   I would definitely support this kind of use.  

If it were portable, it could also call EMS if someone fell outside.
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And Alexa answers the senior:
Could you repeat that, I did not hear you.
Could you say that again, I did not understand you.
Define A p h a s i a ...what's that?
What are you trying to say dear?
You want me to bring in the cat, take out the dog?
You've fallen and can't get up?
Help, I need somebody...I can play that from the Beatles for you...
hello, hello, hello, I love you.
Can you just go to sleep?
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TheBlackDogMina Sep 17, 2019
LOL, Send...💕
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I have Alexa and find her a pure delight. Sits in the corner, awaiting my desires. An audiobook, a specific piece of music, help to remember my grocery list..it's almost endless and we DON'T have the kind that turns the heat on and off, etc. I LOVE HER.

However--for my 90 yo mom, while it could be a game changer---it is so far out of her realm of capability, there's no way she could make it 'work' for her. All she is going to learn in this life, she's learned. It's trickling away now.

Mother heard I got an Alexa and she was panicked "you're going to get robbed! The CIA listens in on your calls! You're going to be attacked!" (see, she gets a story and runs with it--tragic, really.

Depends on the ability of the senior you're working with, but I know NOBODY over the age of about 70 who owns one. I can't imagine how life was BEFORE I had Alexa telling me what to do and when to do it!
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needtowashhair Sep 16, 2019
It depends on the person. My mom can't even use a phone now. I can't rip the handheld Nintendo or smartphone out of my dad's hands. He's in his late '80s. I have to shut off the wifi at times during dinner time.

Grandma's roommate while she was in a facility was on her iphone constantly typing away. She was in her '80s as well.
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Because Amazon Alexa and Google Home both have security issues, I would never recommend installing them in the home of a disabled person or venerable senior unless there was a major quality of life impact and mitigating safeguards. The always on, always connected to the internet, and uploading of all sounds and much of the connected devices data to central servers where the provider stores and uses the data as they choose invades privacy and opens multiple paths for exploitation. I have assisted an adult with major mobility issues in installing Alexa automation but I also removed the Alexa battery so it could be truly disabled by turning off the AC power source. I suggest you also research the well documented security issues introduced by baby cams and the MS xbox one where criminals were able to listen in to pick homes to burglarize. Again for security reasons, I would never use any internet connected door lock, there's just very little reason or benefit to the internet connection that introduces major security risks. BTW, I have used keyless entry locks on all my doors for over a decade.

For the most part I believe you will find caregivers are most interested in practical methods to solve problems, being able to "use" a smartphone to run an app isn't a priority. Technology as part of the solution is usually acceptable to deal with a particular issue, but less tech is more. For example, my parents had a basement door at the bottom of a set of external stairs that they used quite often, usually one of them unlocking the door in the morning and locking it again in evening. When they got older, finding the door was still locked when they wanted to enter the basement was more of a problem. They eventually agreed to placing a digital lock where you punched a keycode to unlock the door to avoid climbing the external stairs and going inside (and down the internal stairs) to unlock the door. They allowed me to upgrade the lock to one with a push button remote lock/unlock feature so they didn't need to go downstairs in the evening to lock the door. They even started keeping this door locked because it was "easy" to unlock as needed. Still, they never agreed to replace any of the door locks on the main level with a digital/keyless entry; the keyed locks they had used for decades were fine.

The technology caregivers and many elders are most often concerned with involves either (a) summoning help when needed following a fall or lockout; or, (b) monitoring the well being of aging adults in their home with minimum intrusion or impact on privacy. These concerns can usually be addressed by security or telephonic systems. Systems like ring or simplesafe that allow using a computer or smartphone to control their functions meet these needs. Remember most of your caregivers are at least in their 50s and may be more comfortable with a computer than a smartphone. Even people like myself who have used a smartphone for over two decades may prefer to use a computer keyboard/screen for postings like this one or replying to email (screen is easier to see and keyboard is faster for typing). Older people also often have some level of hearing impairment, and voice interfaces are not ideal.

I believe the market for home automation within the senior and/or care giving community will be very small for the foreseeable future. Even within the disable adults community, it's going to be small due to costs. Being able to turn the thermostat up or down for someone confined by physical limitations is certainly desirable; however, those individuals will often require attendants who can handle a manual or programmable thermostat so the available resources are more likely to be spent on required care instead of optional gadgets.
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cwillie Sep 16, 2019
Bravo well said! Change can be a good thing, but there must be true benefits that outweigh the costs and learning curve involved.
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Btisjeff,

I do give you credit for considering remote activation of services you addressed, and enhancing security and ease of living for seniors.

But there's got to be a better way than enhancing the wealth of the current robber barons.

Think locally: invent systems that local security services can provide.   We need strength in our local suppliers more than the big monopolies need a stronger foothold in aging care products. 


I would NEVER patronize either Amazon or Google with home products.   I assume you're aware that 50 states have instituted anti trust actions against Google and Facebook, and that Amazon has literally cornered sales markets and been instrumental in the demise of brick and mortar stores, eliminating competition, and life support for the people who sometimes spent years of their life building their businesses. 

Microsoft and Apple have their own monopolies.  Unless you have the time and skill to learn Unix, you're stuck with either of these two.  

I would never do anything to advance their monetary situations and sure as hell would never use their silly, frivolous junk for the operations you suggested.
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Old Sailor, way to go and WELL SAID!   I'm so sick of people who can't think on their own but criticize others who refuse to turn into button pushers of tech devices.  

These people are whizzes with SmartPhones, but they don't have the common sense to even understand financial solvency.  Nor can they solve people problems.  

And you're so right - put tech to use stopping spammers who prey on older people.   Or to figure out something useful and helpful, such as a security system that doesn't require the house to be Internet capable.  That was an issue I faced with my father's home.

Or do something to keep land line phones still available.  Anyone who's taken care of an older person could tell a techie that it's not only hard to see some of the smartphone or basic cell keypads, but the instructions are ridiculous.  The idiot designers don't have any comprehension of the KISS philosophy.

If I'm 90 years old and want to call 911, I don't want to wait for the phone to power up. And I WANT service when power lines are down, which is the best reason to keep land line phones
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needtowashhair Sep 16, 2019
That's the only reason we still have a landline. To call 911. We don't use it for anything else. Everyone has a cell phone to use as a phone. But nothing beats a landline when you need to call 911. They should just rename it from landline to the 911 line.
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Don't come a knocking on my door. Technology, is not , in my opinion, a advancement for for anything or anyone except thieves, crooks, and swindlers.
If you want to invent something great invent a program/app. that hunts down spam caller, etc and either blocks them or electrocutes into the next country.
I own pads of paper and a pencil sharpener.
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needtowashhair Sep 16, 2019
Speaking as someone who had a super small role in making the internet what it is today, I can't say I disagree with you. Now in my old age, I long for the days before high technology ruled our lives. I had a conversation with a contemporary recently about whether the internet is actually a good thing.
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I'll give you my opinion, very bluntly.   I think that use of technology to replace human thinking and analysis only serves to decrease those capabilities and make people more reliant on technology.   

I think that there's already a loss of many aspects of basic living b/c people are becoming more and more reliant on technology to solve problems, some of which are legitimately w/I the machine parameters, but others which decrease problem solving and coping ability in humans.   

Furthermore, I think the nonsense instructions to the little "intelligent" robots are representative of shallow thinking and adaptation.    If robots are to provide useful functions, then they should address those issues, ones which humans either can't or won't do. 

The only way I'd consider using one of these energy wasters is if they did things I can't do or need to be careful of, examples of which are shoveling heavy snow, scrubbing down bathroom and basement walls, climbing ladders to clear eavestroughs, cleaning the toilet, scrubbing mold off the outside of the house and garage, and other tasks which become harder for people as we age.
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freqflyer Sep 15, 2019
I would pay for a "scrubbing bubble" to work independently on my shower walls or kitchen floor :)
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Btisjeff, I think some modern technology is great for those folks who have very limited mobility. Thus, a remote to close the shades, lock the doors, and control the lights would be welcomed. But if dementia is thrown into the mix, it wouldn't work.

I assume most the technology runs off of satellite? I feel some day someone will hack into the system and those with satellite control door locks will find their house unlocked. My late Dad [95] was an engineer/inventor/computer programmer, and I learned from him what could happen with technology.

Anyway, just my humble opinion.
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needtowashhair Sep 16, 2019
It's all about network access. Doesn't matter if it's satellite, wireless or land line. And yes, devices can be hacked to say unlock a network attached door. That's why I isolate my home automation system from the internet. I have an internal network for that.
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