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BRAD RAMPT: Hi, this is Brad Rampt, and I’m the president and CEO of CVI Medical in Tampa Florida, and this is your Assistive Technology Update.
JOSH ANDERSON: Hello and welcome to your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist individuals with disabilities and special needs. I’m your host, Josh Anderson, with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. Welcome to episode 382 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on September 21, 2017.
On today show, we have any very from bridging apps starting us off with an app worth mentioning. And then we will move right into our interview with Brad Rampt from CVI medical group in Florida. He will be on to talk about his home smart assistant. Without further ado, take us away, Amy.
AMY BARRY: This is Amy Barry with BridgingApps, and this is an App Worth Mentioning. This week’s featured app is called One Moment Meditation. Meditation apps are an excellent example of how mobile devices can be an incredibly helpful tool beyond its typical phone text use. Whether it’s helping users to tackle anxiety, improve focus and productivity, overcome fear, or to take a much needed timeout, there is no short supply of available meditation apps on the market. The One Moment Meditation is one of these apps, except that it is missing something. It’s missing all the bells and whistles which makes it feel uncluttered, easy to use, and fantastic.
The One Moment Meditation is brilliant in its simplicity. There is a quick tutorial that makes its mission clear: the importance of taking a moment. It encourages the user to take time for a moment because it’s just taking a moment — and we all have time for just a minute. Bridging apps sees great value in this clear and clutter free meditation app. It’s versatility for use with persons of all ages and abilities is excellent. It would work well in both school and therapeutic environments and then transitions wonderfully to a home environment.
Because of its very friendly, not intimating, and not too “zen,” it may be especially useful when working with persons who might resist the concept and practice of meditation. And there is something about opening your eyes and seeing that stick figure with a calm blue aura around him that just makes one smile.
The One Moment Meditation is available for free at the iTunes and Google play stores. The app is available with iOS and Android devices. For more information on this app and others like it, visit BridgingApps.org.
[2:52] Interview with Brad Rampt
JOSH ANDERSON: So folks, many of us out there have a smart speaker in our home these days. In fact, I bet I could probably say “Alexa,” and make your device activate and start doing some stuff. Some of you may even be listening to this podcast on your device. While these devices could make our lives easier and be a useful tool for many of our daily tasks, smart home assistance can be a great help to individuals with disabilities. Our guest today, Brad Rampt, president and CEO of the CVI medical in Florida, is a RESNA certified assistive technology professional and is here to talk about home smart assistant. Welcome to the show, Brad.
BRAD RAMPT: Good morning. Thank you. I appreciate it.
JOSH ANDERSON: Go ahead and tell us about yourself and how you got into the world of assistive technology.
BRAD RAMPT: CVI Medical was founded back in 1998. It was founded, in the words of my mother, to be a candle going into a dark room. She said, don’t worry about the money. The money will be there. Your role is to be a candle going into the dark room. That’s what we’ve done now for 20 years. We are a home medical equipment provider. We specialize around quadriplegics, either newly injured — that’s a spinal cord or traumatic brain injury — or those from birth — cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy. You the way, we’ve worked with over 2,000 quadriplegics during this period. Our objective is to get these patients out of nursing homes, out of hospitals, living in their homes safely and as independently as possible. No one wants to live in a nursing home. To that end, we’ve had a full service company geared towards home medical equipment.
About two years ago we saw the Amazon Alexa come on the market. We didn’t see this as a toy. We saw this as a potential life-changing asset that, if properly engaged, properly deployed, simplified, could help meet the objective that we are going after, which is these people living in their homes independently and safely. That’s how we got and created a home smart assistant.
JOSH ANDERSON: Very cool. Tell our listeners about the home smart assistant.
BRAD RAMPT: It runs on either Alexa or the Google home. You can call these by a whole lot of different names, be it our smart speakers, electronic aids to daily living, there is a lot of verbiage, a lot of different terms that go around. In fact, it’s so new that it is hard to Google and find a system. I know when we were putting ourselves out there on the Internet, we were coming up with our keywords, and those hard to come up with some keywords. The Alexa device itself has been around for about two or three years now. It is currently and 17 percent of the homes in North America. Amazon is saying that by 2020, it’s going to be in half the homes in America — half. It’s a double top last year and it is doubling each year. Right now, the Alexa and Google home, these smart speakers, are at the same place in our social history that the personal computer was in 1983.
JOSH ANDERSON: Wow.
BRAD RAMPT: Just mull that over. The personal computer in 1983 was a $2,000 deck of cards — before Windows, before the Internet. And we’ve seen how it’s gone from there. I’ve had some unconfirmed conclusions of on this. Amazon’s and game, they didn’t develop this so that husbands didn’t have to get up off the couch and pick up the remote control. They developed this to contain this burgeoning population of baby boomers who want to live in their homes. I don’t want to go into ALS. They don’t want to go into nursing homes. They have a very focused group of people in Palo Alto that are looking into adaptive aids and the assistive technology opportunities around particularly Alexa. I know Google has a pilot counterpart that is doing the same thing. By and large, this is a focus from both of those companies. For us to put our money on who we want to partner up with, Google and Amazon are a couple of smart bets.
What does the system do? We hold about 100 quadriplegics, spinal cords, cerebral palsy, the gamut. We said, what are the things you want to see automated in your home? What are your biggest challenges? They came back with an incredibly consistent list. We need security, be able to control our environment, and we would like to not be as dependent on our caregivers as we are for turning on the TV and things like that.
We said okay, fine. We are going to build this system and go out and test every product that is on the market. We do it once a month for new products. We put it into our suite if they pass our test.
The first group of features that they wanted to see is security. So when they are in their bed, the caregiver is not there or the caregiver has gone out — if it is a wife or whatever — they need to be able to get attention. They need to be able to drop in, so to speak, and get somebody’s attention hands-free. They also need to be able to see who was at the front door and determine if they want to let them in or not. They need to be able to open doors if they are a C-3 quadriplegic, they can’t put bonds, can’t deploy a remote control. They need to be able to open a door and get out of the house in the event of a fire. Or just for ADL’s, just for their activities of daily living. Those are key. We’ve bundled all those functions into what we call our security layer. We control the front doors. We can hook it up with door openers. We’ve put cameras outside of the house, breaking it back together a smartphone or tablet or a PC. We bring it back to a PlayStation.
We had a patient, a young kid injured on a skateboard about six months before he graduated high school. Traumatic brain injury, became a huge gamer. We were able to bring our system back, the video images back to his PlayStation. Microsoft said you can’t do that. There is no way. Well, we did it and they were kind of wowed by it. The whole thing was this young man was able to, through Alexa, complete his high school program via GD by listening to the books coming down from his Alexa, responding to his test, and he got his GED. So he was able to finish high school from his bed in his home. He was also able to move out and get his own apartment because, by putting a couple of Echo shows in the home, the parents could drop in on him at any time. How are you doing? We are going to the store. What would you like for dinner? And he could drop in on them if he had a problem. He could unlock his front door can’t get out of his front door. Life-changing stuff.
That’s our first layer, was security. The second is our patients, our quadriplegics have thermal sensitivities. They get hot and cold very easily. They have a narrow tolerance as far as what they can tolerate. So we hook it up to thermostats. You’ve seen these in Lowe’s and on TV. We are able hook it up to thermostats and integrate it to turn lights on and off. We are able to talk to ceiling fans nowadays. Until about a month ago, they had to have a ceiling fan that was equipped with a remote control. No longer. We found a gadget that can go into the wall. We can now talk to a ceiling fan. We can move it up, move it down, turn the light fans on. That’s cool stuff too.
JOSH ANDERSON: Yes it is.
BRAD RAMPT: I had so many patients say if my caregiver left, and they didn’t turn the AC up, I get cold at night and I have to call a family member to come over here at two in the morning and turn air-conditioning down. No more. Light on and off, that stuff, that’s been advertised a lot.
The last layer is the entertainment layer. These guys want to watch TV. They want to turn to their stereos. They want to go out and live their life as independently as possible. We all want to watch HBO. We want to watch the football games without having to push a remote control, or if we drop the remote, to be stuck on that channel until the caregiver comes back. Those days are over. Those are the three layers we put into it: security, environment, and entertainment.
Here’s what’s really cool. There is no annual maintenance fee. The reason is Amazon and Google do I maintenance. Every month, it hits the phone of our customer, and all they have to do is tap the update button and they got an update system and new features and skills that they can play around with. That’s pretty neat. We don’t know where the top is on this thing.
JOSH ANDERSON: That’s super cool. I love that there is no maintenance. You sit there and get the whole system in place, they gain independence, and then they don’t need you anymore.
BRAD RAMPT: That’s true. We’ve seen that proven. We lay down our hub, and under our hub is like an umbrella that manages everything in the house. They can go — and we’ve had patients add new cameras. They go in the hub, click on find it, and there it is picked it works. We had them go to Lowe’s and buy smart switches because they bought a new floor lamp. Plug it in, plug in the land to it, go out to our hub, there it is. Name it and they are up and running. They don’t have to call us to come out and do that. I love those stories.
JOSH ANDERSON: It’s amazing because you are giving them independence to change their own system.
BRAD RAMPT: If they’ve got a problem with their system, with permission, we can dial-in from wherever we are to see it, call them and say somebody unplugged your camera out front. Oh yeah, that’s because we put the Christmas lights in.
JOSH ANDERSON: That would do it.
BRAD RAMPT: By and large, it maintains itself. If you lose electricity in your home, we do put a backup. We plug in the router and plug their echo into it. But if they lose power, it’ll come back online probably like it does in your home. Alexa will figure out that the router is back, she’ll synchronize, and you’ll be back in business.
JOSH ANDERSON: Very nice. I know normally these are all was assistance. You have to talk to them. With your system, do you have to have a voice to access it?
BRAD RAMPT: Not necessarily. This a very cool. We’ve been able to partner up with Toby DynaVox with their eye gaze system. We have two patients that were brainstem spinal cord that lost their ability to talk and walk in to use their hands. We’ve got two with ALF that have progressed into a situation where they can’t. They just use the Toby DynaVox with eyeblink. By linking their beautiful eyes into the eye gaze, it triggers the right command which triggers our system. We’ve installed it or four of the patients. Every time we left the house, those patients were in tears. It’s so cool to see them finally fight back a bit. All they felt was a loss of independence, more loss, more loss. Now they hit the bottom and now they can go back up again. I love that. That’s the candle going into a dark room that we strive for.
JOSH ANDERSON: That’s super cool. How many systems have you guys installed?
BRAD RAMPT: I think we are up to 160 in our first year. We just got our website up three weeks ago. We had 155 systems without a website just because therapist knew about it. We built it for a waiver program here in Florida called the brain and spinal cord injury program. We went over and sat with the VA here, show it to them, and they all came back and said this makes sense.
Previously, there were systems like this on the market. They start at about $15-$20,000. It’s really expensive because they had proprietary software and wanted to recover their investment. In fact, I consulted with one of those companies for two years to bring their product to market. When I saw this $49 Amazon Echo Dot, this hockey puck, which is what it looks like, I called my partners over there and said “ball game.” You guys have just been replaced with a $49 Dot, and I’ve got the smartest company in the world, programmers in Palo Alto on my payroll for free. We could work smart or work hard. We decided to work really smart here.
JOSH ANDERSON: Definitely. You talk about the old systems were up to $15,000. How much does this system cost?
BRAD RAMPT: You can get the base system for $3500. The base system includes the security layers, includes entertainment layers, and includes the environment layer. We put an Echo Spot, which is a three and half inch video. We don’t deploy the Dot anymore because it doesn’t have video. We put the spot in. $3500. Here in the state of Florida, we are even set up with the new Horizon loan program, which is really cool. It’s a program by a group out of Tallahassee called FAST. They will write loans for this, and patients can get into this for under $100 a month. If you look at your parents going into a nursing home or an ALF or not, $3500 is one month at a nursing home. If you can keep mom living in her house for one extra month as I do with my 93-year-old mother in San Antonio Texas, this is why she still in her home. She can do a drop in on me anytime at all. In fact, we were able to get rid of her $59 a month life alert button because the system gives her great coverage. That’s one month in a nursing home. If you pay it out of pocket, expenses for a caregiver to come into the home, if you trim off three hours a week, from 32 down to 29 hours, you don’t have a caregiver waiting on the UPS guy to give you your catheters, three hours a week, you pay for the system in a year.
JOSH ANDERSON: For sure.
BRAD RAMPT: It may sound like a lot, it’s really not. It’s chump change when you consider what all it does. I’ve had several cases where the caregiver, being a wife or mother, set I can go back to work. I don’t have to be tied to the house, my husband, my daughter anymore. I can feel confident that I can get out of the house. They can contact me. I can contact them. We can see each other and I can go back to work. That’s the light going into a dark room.
JOSH ANDERSON: It sure is. And you can’t put a price on independence.
BRAD RAMPT: You really can’t. It’s not just independence for the patient. It’s independence for the caregiver.
JOSH ANDERSON: For everyone involved.
BRAD RAMPT: They try to define their normal following this catastrophic trauma, in the case of an injury, and they are trying to define their new normal. This gives them their soft landing into the new normal because dad can do some things around the house that he couldn’t do. He can still do some things and mom can go back to work. Feel good stories all around. I love it. I love this business. We are still doing home medical equipment. We still build high-end wheelchairs. This is just a company line of business.
I’ll tell you something really quick on a side note. The guys that have been in this industry for the longest, the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense has been testing this stuff a lot longer than we knew about.
JOSH ANDERSON: Really?
BRAD RAMPT: Yeah, because they wanted to catch bad guys using this technology. They wanted to protect against the enemy. So when we were staffing up, I said I’m going to the Department of Defense. And we had a bunch of special forces guys, ex-Army Rangers. They have tremendous skills. For one thing, they will finish the project when they go on. They will leave no man behind. One of them said, Brad, for the first eight years of my life, US Army was teaching me how to kill people. Now I’m learning how to heal people and put the systems in. That is really cool.
My point is, is not only do they have a great heart, patients feel extremely protected when these guys come into their homes. They know the pedigrees and resumes. They know that these are some top-notch people. Army Rangers?
JOSH ANDERSON: Oh yeah.
BRAD RAMPT: And they are just good people. That’s who we are sending out into the field. It’s of a long-winded answer. I’m sorry. I’m sort of passionate about what we do.
JOSH ANDERSON: That’s good. That’s what I want to see, is the passion. You have to have it to work in this field and business.
BRAD RAMPT: Like my mother said, be a candle, don’t worry about the money. The money will be there.
JOSH ANDERSON: Exactly. Go ahead and tell me a story about a couple of individuals that this program has benefited. Do you have a favorite one?
BRAD RAMPT: The one I was talking to you about — let’s call him Scott. He was on his skateboard, six months before graduation. He got hit by a car. He was able to graduate high school by using the system and move out from under his parents and the independently.
We have another young man here in Tampa, C3 quadriplegic, sip and puff array, no hand, finger, grip or grasp, no dexterity at all. Put the system into his home now. He’s found a part-time job. We hooked it up and integrated it from his home with Dragon naturally speaking. He’s writing blogs for a magazine. He was able to find employment, and his mom was able to go back to work but he cannot get out of the house. We hooked it up to his open sesame door opener, and he was able to get out of the house.
Amazon get a little nervous. They don’t like — right now it’s set up so that Amazon won’t talk to something like a lock or quickset and allow you, by voice, to unlock the door. They don’t want burglars walking around outside saying, Amazon, open the front door. There are ways around that, is my point. There are ways around that. We are very focused on security, and we are able, through a series of passwords and other security techniques to secure the environment so that’s not going to happen. I patients can do it. They’ve got a badge that we put on their wheelchair that allows them to cut through proximity, to get back into the house. It’s a very secure system.
That young man, his mom was also able to go outside. My favorite success story is my mother, she was living at an ALF. We visited several of them. They were very expensive. Below and one for $3000. The high ones were $5500. We put the system in her house, and she just cannot get off that system at all. She’s addicted to it. She’s constantly dropping in. In fact, you heard me mute my phone a while ago when two calls came in. That was my mother who wanted to drop in and chat. She did take if all the other night. She was on the floor. She was able to wake us up and I was able to look in and we dispatched 911 to her house, and they were able to get her. I said we got rid of her life alert. Actually, I did not get rid of it. I told her I got rid of it, but the infrastructure is still in the home. She just doesn’t like to think she still has to remember to put it on. But through the Wi-Fi which covers her home — and we’ve got speakers around the home — she is safe anywhere she is, and her house is about 2200 square feet. She’s safe anywhere she falls in that home and Alexa can pick up her voice.
I was telling you about the folks that are doing the eyeblink technology now to control the environment.
JOSH ANDERSON: That’s such a good integration and a lot of people want to have even thought of, to be able to do that.
BRAD RAMPT: It wasn’t that tough. We have the right hub that can connect with that. I’ll be brief because I know we are running short on time here. He told me I could use his name. There is a soldier named Corey Remsburg. Corey is the veteran’s veteran. He did 10 deployment in Afghanistan and Iraq. Corey was introduced by Barack Obama at the 2014 state of the union address. He sat next to Michelle. He had a 90-second standing ovation from both houses of Congress. Corey is a friend of mine, he’s friends with my future son-in-law. They [were Rangers] together. He comes from Phoenix to Tampa for his physical therapy. The wounded warriors put him a house and gave it to them out and Phoenix, but they didn’t automate anything. One thing led to another. We went out there, put the full system in his house, automated it, and he has become our biggest advocate. On his Facebook, he has our website address. He just can’t talk to veterans enough about this particular system and how it has changed his life. His parents are the same way. They can now do drop ins. He lives independently. They can see him, he can see them, and they can talk back and forth. They know when a visitor comes to the door. They can talk to the visitor. If they are in Montana, they can talk to the visitor as if they were right behind the door. You want some more stories or is that enough?
JOSH ANDERSON: I was going to say, I’m sure we could probably go on all day just with the stories. That’s amazing, using that to help folks. What does the future hold?
BRAD RAMPT: We continue to stay in contact with Amazon. Every time a new gadget comes out, we get notified. We test it. Like I said, a month ago we found out how we could go into old ceiling fans and now talk to them. We are going to continue to enrich the product, pull these in. I’m Amazon wants you to think — and Lowe’s and Home Depot want you to think that this stuff is seamless. You just buy and Alexa and these gadgets [Inaudible]. It’s not. We don’t have seamless integration across all of our household. There is a thousand types of thermostats. Houses are all wired differently. Putting in a nest thermostat is no easy thing to do. It’s doable, it works, but you have to have smart guys that know how to do that. Many patients already have existing cameras and things like that. We are able to suck those in and integrate them under our hub.
What does the future hold? We are going to continue to do what we do. Right now we are covering Florida out of Tampa. We have CVI medical of Dallas that covers Dallas down to San Antonio. We are looking at Richmond Virginia and Minneapolis, because the VA also has a large trauma rehab centers there with a lot of spinal cord patients. We are just going to continue to let the system grow and keep pushing it out. That’s what the future holds.
JOSH ANDERSON: I can’t wait to see what’s next. If people want to find out more about the system and everything, is there a website or where they can find out more about you?
BRAD RAMPT: Good idea. www.HomeSmartAssistant.com.
JOSH ANDERSON: Excellent. We will put those into the show notes for folks. I guess today was Brad Rampt, president and CEO of CVI medical in Florida. Thank you so much for coming on a talking about home smart assistant.
BRAD RAMPT: A pleasure. Thanks for having us.
ANDERSON: Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Are you looking for a transcript or show notes? Head on over to our website at www.EasterSealsTech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. For more shows like this, plus so much more, head over to AccessibilityChannel.com. The opinions expressed by our guests are their own and may or may not reflect those of the INDATA Project, Easter Seals Crossroads, or any of our supporting partners. That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Josh Anderson with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana. Thank you for listening, and we’ll see you next time.
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