Probably because I’m continually testing and evaluating mHealth devices, software and services I’m always being asked how and when the M2M mHealth Market will take off and until recently I’ve remained sceptical that there is anything out there with wide and instant direct to consumer appeal yet…
The biggest missing piece for me has been the appeal of these services to consumers rather than individuals who consider themselves to be patients. Readers of this blog will know that I believe this wider interest is a fundamental for the early success stories but here’s a few examples to give you the idea of what I’m talking about:
> The exec with faltering eyesight who can appreciate the big high contrast display on her sleek Doro easymobile because it means she can use it without needing her glasses
> The lone worker who can also appreciate the value of the SOS emergency call button that enables the device to make a “fake call” and/or summon help in the event that they can’t cancel a location based alert in a set period of time
> The industrial worker who can appreciate the benefits of a mobile designed for those with hearing impairment because it offers a vibrating/85 dB ringtone that enables her to wear ear defenders whilst at work but also be reachable.
> the plug and play M2M movement monitor designed to monitor patients in their homes that also safegaurds my home, garage, etc – making me instantly aware of power cuts, temperature extremes, intruders etc.
> The sos feature in my car that will alert authorities to it’s location when stolen, involved in a RTA etc
But the direct to consumer interest in M2M devices still lags the more optimistic industry analyst expectations and although the iPhone 5 is going to radically alter what it means to be connected I see the most common problems today being consumer awareness, usability issues and pricing.
Don’t get me wrong it’s not the innovators behind these technologies. Many of them have an incredible insight and understanding of what they need to do, but because they don’t control the delivery as much as they need to (as a result of funding needs, regulator latency, lack of awareness of their ecosystem partners etc) it’s just not yet happening.
Here in the UK we can see how mobile operators such as O2 and Orange have essentially been too busy focused on creating the product and content themselves (eg. via their O2 Health and Orange Healthcare brands) rather than creating the required (and much bigger – and more profitable) enabling environment for partners who have the specialist skills to make things happen.
As evidence try and show me an innovative M2M provider who has a successful relationship with the main operators – priced out of the market they are forced to deploy and innovate with sim cards designed for different purposes eg the prepay giffgaff sims (that are designed for a completely different purpose) or via partnerships with global data MVNO’s such as Cubic Telecom or the more expensive but properly integrated SIM-less integrated GSM solutions available from the likes of Cinterion/Gemalto.
So whens it going to change? What will we need before everyone will want to actually buy a M2M mhealth Technology?
Well I think it will take something that is so obvious that we don’t even have to talk about it being “consumer intelligible”. Plug and play simplicity will also be assumed.
So imagine how happy I am to have had a great experience with this connected Smoke Detector?
The fire text smoke alarm is now situated in my horse stable, elderly relatives home, in a client’s dog boarding kennels, in my fiends fishing vessel and I’m pretty confident I’ve found the product that’s going to make M2M mHealth mainstream. Here’s an introduction:
The Firetext smoke alarms are battery powered smoke alarms that in the event of activation (when it’s photo-electric sensor detects a smouldering fire) it sends a customised warning text message (including the device location and a short URL where important detailed info can be stored) to a preset list of mobile numbers from which a coordinated response can be initiated.
The devices are already being trialled by Fire and Rescue services and care providers (eg the Alzheimer’s Society) and the company behind the device have ambitious smartphone app plans eg. packaging with a smartphone app integrating an educational video on situating the alarms, planning and practicing your fire escape plans and carer responses and responsibilities, adding smoke alarm alert sensor abilities similar to those incorporated into the lifetone bedside alarm and bed shaker, etc, etc.
Whilst the benefits to carers of those with disabilities who wish to live independently eg patients who are very old, suffer from Alzheimers, dementia, etc etc are obvious I think the success of this product is going to come from everyone else realising how useful it can be. This in turn will make the buying decision so easy.
Eric Schmidt may have told the world some 8 years ago that what should be connected will be connected but I get the feeling that for most people the connected smoke detector (that they should have on every level of their homes and workplaces) is the device that will actually start the wheels of this revolution.
It’s interesting to note that the last time I was so gushing about the potential of new M2M mhealth device it was the alivecor ECG case for the iPhone that a week later was featured on good morning America and last week announced a $3 million investment from Burrill and Company, Qualcomm Ventures and the Oklahoma Life Sciences Fund.
After a fascinating meeting with FireText CEO Matthew Newman recently i’m pretty confident that the FireText brand could be even more successful. The UK alone offers a market of 10’s of millions of devices that could benefit from this and millions of patients who could benefit from the additional functionality (eg. a mobile call to wake them, a SMS to summon friends/carers, device/battery status updates, etc, etc).
Here are some stats that back up my belief in this product and the services it can support:
> Deaths due to fire have decreased by half since the invention of the smoke detector.
> Working smoke detectors reduce the chances of death in a fire by half
> Hundreds more lives could be saved annually if every home had working smoke detectors. The FireText product offers a major extension of the testing capabilities we have with todays disconnected devices.
> The most common cause of smoke detector failure is missing or disconnected batteries. The FireText product offers the ability for owners or carers to set regular testing and verification for this.
> Nuisance alarms are the most common reason for deliberately disconnecting batteries. The FireText product extends the ability for carers to understand the nature of nuisance alarms, deliver education and advise on repositioning to eliminate this common problem eg. locating the device away from the source of cooking or an open fire (the most common reason for false alarms)
> Missing, disconnected, or dead batteries account for 73% of smoke detector failures. The FireText product can be set to send battery ok status messages to patients, carers, maintenance teams, etc
Want to get involved with this product?
Get in touch with FireText here. If you’d like an introduction or help with developing a mHealth strategy incorporating their product please just add a comment and I’ll get in touch with you.