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ATU543 – Sofihub with Trevor Rooney

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Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.

Special Guest:

Trevor Rooney – VP of Global Sales and Marketing for CARETEQ International

www.sofihub.com

 

Android Accessibility Story: https://bit.ly/3Dwv1CQ

More Android Accessibility: https://bit.ly/3oVtCSd

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—– Transcript Starts Here —–

Trevor Rooney:
Hi, this is Trevor, and I’m the VP of global sales and marketing of technology company CARETEQ. 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 Easterseals, Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. Welcome to episode 543 of assistive technology update. It’s scheduled to be released on October 22nd, 2021. On today’s show, we’re super excited to have Trevor Rooney, the VP of global sales and marketing for CARETEQ International, on to talk about SOFIHUB and some of the amazing solutions that they have available to help individuals stay safe, healthy, and happy, and independent in their own homes.

Josh Anderson:
We also have a couple of stories about some new Android accessibility that will be coming out in Android 12. Please don’t forget, if you ever have a question for us, a comment, or perhaps somebody you’d love to hear as a guest, reach out to us and let us know. You can reach out to us by email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org, call our listener line at (317)721-7124, or shoot us a line on Twitter @indataproject. We thank you so much for listening. Now, let’s go ahead and get on with the show.

Josh Anderson:
First, our day comes to us from theverge.com. It’s written by Barbara Krasnoff and it’s titled “How Android 12 Lets You Control Your Phone With Facial Gestures.” So of course on this show, many times we’ve actually had folks on here talking about using eye control, or gestures, or other things in order to control different devices. A lot of times it’s going to take some sort of outside camera, different software, things like that, but it says here that an Android 12 something called camera switches is going to be included.

Josh Anderson:
And what camera switches does is it essentially lets you use the camera on the phone as a switch. It says it can include six different facial gestures and at least a few actions. Can’t do a whole lot to begin with, but it is a good beginning and a way to make it to where you do not have to act actually physically access the phone screen in order to do things. Says that in the Android 12, this is going to be built into the accessibility features under switch access. And it’ll let you do some of the things that you would normally do with a switch such as linear scanning, row column scanning, but also group selection, which lets you do some different things kind of by color, which is a little bit different than maybe some other switch access that folks are used to.

Josh Anderson:
Some of the different facial expressions that it can understand are an open mouth, a smile, a raised eyebrow or moving your eyes different ways. So looking left, looking right, and looking up, and you can actually have different commands controlled by these different gestures. So essentially it’s using the camera and your facial gestures as a switch. So this isn’t like an eye gaze system where you’re staring at it and it’s following your eyes or a head mouse or anything like that, where it’s actually going to be moving based on the placement of your face. It’s going to do this scanning as a normal kind of one or two buttons switch might do, but it’s allowing you to access everything, just using that front facing camera and the different facial expressions. We’ll put a link to the story over in the show notes. It actually walks you through how to set the entire system up, but very cool and a very cool new accessibility feature that is being built into Android 12 to just make those cell phones a little bit more accessible to all.

Josh Anderson:
So, in sticking with Android, I’ve got another story from over at The Verge. This one written by Jon Porter, and it’s titled, “Android Adds Facial Gesture Controls and Handwriting Recognition Accessibility Features.” Now we already talked a little bit about the camera switch at how that’s going to work, but this goes on to a few other kind of ideas and things that are going to out, or should be coming out in Android 12.

Josh Anderson:
One of those things is something called Project Activate. Now this is a standalone app that’s there to help people communicate. It’s going to use that camera switch, but here facial gestures can be set to trigger actions like playing audio or sending a text message. So these can actually have specialized things that can kind of happen with that. Also says that Google Lookout is improving its handwriting recognition so that it’ll be able to read out Latin based languages and is accessible from its documents mode. Also says a few other things that are going to be there is that the Gboard is seeing great improvements, most interesting is that it will be able to use Smart Compose and finish sentences, similar to what’s already possible in Google Docs and Gmail. It says copying and pasting is being updated to automatically separate out separate contact information like phone numbers, email addresses, addresses, and things like that if it’s all copied a big chunk of text.

Josh Anderson:
Another thing, and I really like this, is something called Heads Up, digital wellbeing feature. What this does as it reminds people to stop looking down at their phones while they’re walking. So I’m sure many folks have probably been out and seen someone run into people. I’ve seen someone run into a pole. I’ve seen someone walk out into the street, all while their faces are down in their phones. So this will actually sit there and tell you to look up. It’s got a couple of other features kind of in here, but these are the really important ones. Probably the biggest assistive technology ones, of course, are the ones based on Project Activate, that camera switch, and Google Lookout’s handwriting recognition improving. Still, looks like there’ll be some really cool things coming out in Android 12.

Josh Anderson:
We would all love to be there for our loved ones all the time, but work school, traffic and other things just take our attention away. How can we know that they’re doing okay? That they’re completing the things they need to do daily? That they’re eating well and that they really don’t need our assistance? Well, our guest today is Trevor Rooney from CARETEQ and he’s here to tell us about their unique solution to this ongoing issue. Trevor, welcome to the show.

Trevor Rooney:
Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. Very excited to be here.

Josh Anderson:
I’m excited to have you on, could you start off by telling our listeners a little bit about yourself and your background?

Trevor Rooney:
Absolutely. So my name’s Trevor, and despite my funny accent, I’m actually not American. I’m Irish who moved to Australia many years ago and ended up over here about six months ago. I’ve always been a lover of all things tech and as I’ve, I hate to say the way word matured, but as I’ve matured along the way I’ve, I’ve lent towards, I guess, products that give back to the end user. I started off with a company called Sonos, providing music to people. And as I’ve moved through the years, I’m now working with CARETEQ and we’re an assisted living technology company. We specialize in designing and distributing products that are there pretty much to give people an extra helping hand throughout the day. So we’ve got a couple of little products out there that do incredibly well and happy to talk about them.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah. And that’s exactly why we have you on. Could you start off by telling us what is SOFIHUB?

Trevor Rooney:
Okay. So SOFIHUB is a brand of CARETEQ. SOFIHUB incorporates a number of hardware products and also an online portal. And that portal I guess, is our core piece that pulls together our ecosystem. So, whether it’s a fall detection unit, whether it’s a digital concierge or whether it’s a safety pendant, all of these products talk back into our SOFIHUB portal and that pulls everything together.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. I know you, kind of like you said, you have some different kind of solutions under that SOFIHUB. So could you start by telling me about SOFIHUB Home? What is that?

Trevor Rooney:
Absolutely. So SOFIHUB home, let’s look at that as a digital concierge. It’s a product that offers spoken word reminders throughout the day to help people adhere to day-to-day routines, routines that potentially you and I would take for granted. So things like “Don’t forget to feed the dog”, “Have a glass of water” when it’s warm, right through to more important things like, “Hey, it’s time for your medication,” or more important than that, “You’ve actually missed your medication,” so potentially you need to go and look at that. So the product sits in an environment where it’s audible, so kitchen or a lounge room. And then, along with eight motion sensors that are placed around the home, it’s looking for key routines. Now these motion sensors are just that, there’s no audio or no video. I often say we’re the only company in the world that will never listen to its clients, we’re simply looking for motion.

Trevor Rooney:
And what we’re doing is we’re watching, motion wise, people move around the home and making sure that they sort of adhere to these routines. And there’s three key routines that we’re looking out for. And these routines are the ones that we place probably the most focus on because they carry the highest risk. And those three routine would be getting up in the morning. So we want to make sure that mom or dad is actually getting up out of bed in the morning to start their day. We want to make sure that they’re going to bed within a certain timeframe. And we also want to make sure that if they’re entering into the restroom, that they come out in a timely manner. Now all of these settings are set up via a portal during initial day one.

Trevor Rooney:
So we might say that mom goes to bed, say between nine and 10:30 at night, she gets up between say seven and eight. And maybe she spends no more than 45 minutes in the bathroom at any one time. If all of those parameters are, the person stays within those guardrails, everything’s fine. And the unit will just give these spoken word reminders to give them a little nudge throughout the day to do these things.

Trevor Rooney:
If, for whatever reason, mom pops into the bathroom and after 45 minutes she doesn’t come back out, our sensor will notice that. So maybe she’s had a tumble, whatever it might be, what will happen is SOFIHUB Home will come to life and it will actually say, “Hey, I notice you’ve been in the bathroom for longer than normal, is everything okay? If everything is okay, please press my top button.” So what we’re actually doing is we’re looking for some tangible interaction between mom and the unit itself. If mom is able to go to the unit and press the top button, fantastic, and it will reset that anomaly. If, over a period of about five minutes and a few more alerts she doesn’t get to it, what will happen is an SMS will be sent to an external party. Now that might be a professional carer, or it might be a friend or family member. And from there, then they will have the opportunity to determine what they need to do, that they would call next steps. So whether that to visiting mom, whether that’s calling her or whether that is actually calling emergency services.

Trevor Rooney:
The SOFIHUB Home is actually a cell phone. So you actually have the ability to be able to dial into it and talk to the resident straight away. So that probably would be initial thing to do. You’d call the unit, “Hey mom, is everything okay?” `If she answers great, if she doesn’t, next steps would be emergency services. So that’s it at a very high level.

Josh Anderson:
Well, nice. And I love that it has that extra kind of built in part where it says, “Hey, this has happened. Push the button.” It doesn’t automatically just call someone, cause I can understand how that could get probably a little annoying a bit. Especially if you’re just a few minutes late, or something like that, or, you know, I’m not hungry yet, I eat a half an hour later, something of that kind of style.

Trevor Rooney:
It’s a great point you bring up. And during our R and D, when we put all this together, we realized very quickly that our seniors, if there was a few false positives, i.e. the system went off when it shouldn’t, it only took two or three of those things to happen when they didn’t want to use it anymore. They, I think the issue is a lot of older people feel that they’re already a burden on their friends or family, which of course is not the case, but that’s how they feel, so they really want to minimize.

Josh Anderson:
Well, I like the use of motion detectors, like you said, as opposed to cameras, just because it seems a lot less intrusive for the individuals using it. So, and then you also have something called SOFIHUB Secure. Tell me about that one.

Trevor Rooney:
Absolutely. So once SOFIHUB Home is an in-home solution, the Secure is an out of home solution. So we’ve probably all heard of safety pendants that we might wear around our neck, or on our wrist or wherever it might be. So SOFIHUB Secure is a safety pendant, but I like to think of it as the next evolution of what safety pendants, all safety pendants, should be. Not only do we have the ability to monitor from our online portal, as I’ve mentioned earlier, and as I say, friends and family can dial into this via an iOS app or an Android app at any time and see what’s going on, but we also have the ability to gather some data. So let’s say dad is out and about, he’s playing golf, at any one time we can log in and see his live location. We can see his location history. And if, if we feel necessary, we can also create safe and not so safe spots, so we can geofence certain locations.

Trevor Rooney:
So with my mom in particular, she’s in her mid eighties. So if it’s a very hot day, I don’t want her walking too far away from her home. So I can set up a geofence, maybe a mile all the way around, or whatever it might be. And if she steps outside, I’m going to hear about it. And I can call her on the SOFIHUB Secure, which again, doubles as a cell phone. I have the ability to dial into the unit, and be able to actually have a two-way conversation, but what the core focus of this project and the function of this product is that it’s an SOS device. So, if somebody does get into harm’s way, they can either press the SOS button, or if they have a fall, the unit will pick that up. It will then set off a cycle. And what it will do is it will SMS the first carer on the list. That carer will get an SMS with a hot link, which will give you a live location map, indicating where the person is. And then very swiftly, what will happen is the Secure will dial that person as it would a normal cell phone, and you can have a two-way conversation.

Trevor Rooney:
So again, you have the ability to talk to the residents, very, very swiftly to find out what’s going on. “Hey, are you okay?” “Yes, I had a tumble, but I’m fine.” Or silence. And then from there you determine what’s what. Now our Secure has the ability to store up to 10 contacts. So if the first person doesn’t answer and reset the anomaly, what will happen is the second person gets contacted and so on and so on until somebody actually comes to the aid of the person. So we want to be very mindful that we’re all very busy people, we’re all running around doing meetings or whatever it might be. We want to make sure that if we happen to miss that first SMS because we’re in the middle of something, the next person on the list is actually going to get a notification.

Josh Anderson:
Well, that’s great. And there’s a lot of stuff to unpack there. Cause I know the fall detection is definitely helpful, all those things, but I know geofencing is a big thing cause elopement’s just a huge problem for, well, for folks with disabilities, for folks who might be older, things like that. So yeah, being able to set that up, and being able to set it up differently, kind of like you said, on a hot day, I can set it up this way. On another day, I can set it up this way, and not just kind of have those… So many times it seems like with devices like that, it’s I set this up and that’s just how it is. And it’s a lot of work to really kind of change those things and those parameters. So.

Trevor Rooney:
That’s exactly right. That’s the beauty of the SOFIHUB Portal. At any time anyone could log in via the app or your computer and whether it’s the SOFIHUB Home or the security of the ability to go in there and adjust parameters as needed. And what we normally find is with something like the Sophie hub home, we might start off at four or five reminders for the person in a week. Very quickly they get used to it, they enjoy having somebody talking to them, being honest. And all of a sudden we have 10 or 15 reminders go in there and you can add those as necessary. And I think it’s one of the great things about our product is that we have the ability to evolve at the same pace our resident does, our end user does. So as they get used to it more, we can actually pull the trigger on more features, which is a big thing.

Josh Anderson:
So you’re not overwhelming them all at first with all these amazing bells and whistles, you just give them what they need and then as they grow accustomed to that more and more can kind of be unlocked.

Trevor Rooney:
Correct. Absolutely.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. Well, that’s a great way, and I’m sure that probably really helps on the user experience too, and probably cuts down on the abandonment of the technology.

Trevor Rooney:
Yeah, it does. It’s a very good point. Absolutely. And something that we enjoy. We’re very agile our company, and that’s one of the great things that sets us apart, I think, from a lot of people out there is that we very much are aware of what works and what doesn’t, shall we say, with our clients. And, at the end of the day, if somebody does have an idea that, “Hey, wouldn’t this be good?” we can usually add that into our system very, very quickly. I like to think that we’re a software company that happens to make some really neat hardware because we have to because we’re the only ones who can create what we need.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah. And Trevor, in my experience, it seems to be that, especially in the assistive technology, in this kind of space, those that listen to their users seem to last a whole lot longer and have something that stays.

Trevor Rooney:
Correct.

Josh Anderson:
Now you’ve also got something called Eazense, and I may have mispronounced that.

Trevor Rooney:
You’ve done pretty well. Absolutely. It’s an interesting word. Eazense is a real time full detection unit. So this is something we’re incredibly excited about, and it’s something that we’ve done in conjunction with a company over in Sweden. So it’s a joint venture first, and super excited. So simply Eazense as I say, realtime, full detection unit using radar technology. Now, when we all think of radar, we all think of, the guys sitting in the control tower, controlling all these things. And in reality, it’s very similar. What we’re doing is we’re using radio waves, sending out from this device monitoring what’s going on in a room. Now these are non-invasive, they don’t do anything to the end user. They’re simply monitoring as I say, motion, et cetera.

Trevor Rooney:
So, what I want you to do is think of Eazense like a smoke alarm, I guess that’s probably the easiest way for people to sort of relate to it. It goes up on the wall, you set up your parameters, i.e. how far, how big is the room? How high is the ceiling? What full threshold do you want? So maybe we might want maybe two, two and a half feet from the ground. When, if somebody breaks that threshold and falls, that’s what we pick up. It goes up on the wall and then you never touch it again. There’s no wearable required or anything like that. It simply sits up there, and again, via our portal, we have the ability to be able to log on and we can determine first up if a person is upright and doing okay and whatever else. We can also determine if there’s multiple people in the room, which is quite nice as well. So the applications there might be in an age care facility where we could set up, further down the track, maybe an alert of some sorts where, “Hey, there’s a person in the room that shouldn’t be at this particular time. There should only be one person here,” things like that. So there’s a lot of parameters there that we can work with that third party end users. But yeah, this is really exciting.

Trevor Rooney:
The whole goal here is to put that up on the wall, forget about it, mom or dad, or whoever it might be, whether they’re living in an assisted living facility or whether they’re still living at home, they’re going about their day. And if they do have a tumble, this unit instantly picks that up and sends an SMS to a carer indicating that there’s been a fall and you need to have some action and determine what needs to happen from here. So, very excited. This has just come on the market in Australia and New Zealand where our company is originally from, and we’re very close to launching over here in the U.S. over the next couple of weeks.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. And do you ever get into these devices a little bit more and these kind of solutions, do all of them require wifi and to be connected to wifi in order to function?

Trevor Rooney:
Great question. They all do require access to the internet. And we do it in a couple of different ways. Eazense, given it’s a fixed product and it’s on the wall and you never touch it, that requires a Cat fiber or Cat six cable running back to a router, so that always has an always on connection, which works quite nice. It also gets power over ethernet that way, so it’s very easy to install in most dwellings. The SOFIHUB Secure, which is an out of home solution, uses a 4G SIM card, which is built in inside. And the SOFIHUB Home also uses a 4G SIM card, which we put in as well.

Trevor Rooney:
Now, a lot of people ask us, why do we use a SIM card for a product that’s living inside someone’s home that potentially might have wifi? And the answer is simple. Wifi can be very fickle, and we know that there are times where wifi may drop out. And what we simply want to make sure is that if something happens, we need to make sure that this unit is live. Our unit is only as good as the connection it has to the internet. So whilst the SOFIHUB Home can do wifi, and when we normally set up we actually suggest people they put it onto their wifi network, it actually has that SIM card in backup. So if wifi drops out, it instantly goes to SIM card and then vice versa when wifi comes back on. So you’ve got the best of both worlds. We feel it’s the best way forward. We certainly don’t want any areas where we have something happen, an event happen, and not be able to know about it because wifi dropped out. And of course the SOFIHUB Secure because it is a portable device and you’re out and about, you need to have the ability to be able to contact the net at any time.

Josh Anderson:
That’s great to at least have that backup, like you said, especially for the home ones, but then whenever you’re out in the community, trying to jump from wifi to wifi, just isn’t really reasonable or going to happen all the time. Trevor, I’m sure you’ve got a lot of them, but can you tell me a story about someone that’s been assisted by some of the things from CARETEQ?

Trevor Rooney:
Sure. I guess there’s probably two stories I want to tell you if that’s okay. And being Irish, I spend my life telling stories. I hope you can bear with me.

Josh Anderson:
I sure can.

Trevor Rooney:
I’ll make them quite short. One of the most successful stories we’ve had with SOFIHUB Home was actually to a young gentleman who had a brain injury, lovely gentleman, who was involved in a car accident and suffered a brain injury that… there was a couple of things during the day that he needed help with. It was simple as that. And we met him, we met his mom, and basically what was happening is that she was instigating the things that he was forgetting. So, he’s a teenager, so she was, you know, “Time to get up,” Time to do your homework,” “Time to clean your room,” all of those little things that moms have to do, but she was doing it a lot.

Trevor Rooney:
And her relationship was deteriorating a little bit with her son, which as you would imagine, because she was always the one hassling him. And we all know, I guess if there’s kids in the equation, there always has to be someone who has to give them a little bit of a nudge. So long story short, we decided to put SOFIHUB Home into the equation. And now this young gentleman has his own personalized robot, he calls it. SOFIHUB is the person that gives him all the reminders, and simply he lives his day, as you would expect, enjoying every minute of it. And his relationship with his mom is back to where it needs to be because she doesn’t need to be the one who’s giving him that nudge all the time. So a very, very nice story with an amazing end result where we’ve sort of rebuilt a relationship using technology that he’s really enjoying day-to-day to help him, as I say, adhere to these routines. So, that’s one really exciting thing that we’ve seen. It was a little bit from the norm, as well, cause a lot of people make the mistake, they think, well SOFIHUB is just for older people and it’s really not. It’s really for anyone in the community that just needs that extra layer of security or that helping hand.

Trevor Rooney:
And then the second story is with the Secure, which is fantastic, a true blue Australian farmer in his early nineties, his son contacted me and said, “You know what? Dad’s out on the farm all the time. We’re really concerned about him.” We had a conversation. We said, “Right, Secure is probably the thing.”` We got him organized. And within 24 hours of dad having his secure in his pocket, he had a tumble, which was a bad fall. And within one hour, because he was regional, his son and emergency services are able to come and help him. And he is right as rain now. So that was simply the SOFIHUB Secure, paid for itself within 24 hours, and you can’t beat that type of stuff. When you hear stories like that. We try… We sell a lot of products and we deal with a lot of people, but I like to try and become friends with everyone. And I encourage people to come back to me with amazing stories like that, because it really makes you feel good and makes you realize that we’re doing something good in the world. These products are helping people every single day. And whilst I don’t want to say that we’re saving lives, because that’s a big call, I’d like to say that we’re changing lives.

Josh Anderson:
Oh definitely. And hearing those stories makes it a whole lot easier to show up for work is for darn sure. Makes it at least a whole lot more rewarding. And I’m glad you brought up that first story because yeah, a lot of people always seem to think that these things might be for older adults and things like that, but really other folks do need queuing as well. And really kind of just having a machine that gives you those cues is so much better than having someone, I guess harp on you, is probably kind of the word that I’m sure that the young man you were talking about, I’m sure used a few times about as mom. And just to strain that relationship, but to be able to have something else as that intermediary to do those pieces is very…

Trevor Rooney:
`Exactly right. Absolutely. And we’re thrilled to be able to help people like that. And I’m sure potentially if we talk again, I’ll have an Eazense story for you or falls detection one. We’re just putting those out into the market now, but we’ll be collating a case studies, and we know we’re making a difference and we’re blessed to be able to do it.

Josh Anderson:
We’ll look forward to that story sometime in the future. Well, Trevor for our listeners who want to find out more about all these great solutions and everything, what’s the best way for them to do that?

Trevor Rooney:
Absolutely. The easiest way is just go to our website, which is just SOFIHUB.com. That’s S O F I H U b.com. And you’ll find all the information there. There’s also a “contact us” section of the website, and if you pop anything in, any questions, that’s going to come direct to me and I’ll be very, very happy to get back to you and let you know of some more information.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. We’ll put links to that down into the show notes. Well, Trevor, thank you so much for coming on today from CARETEQ and telling us all about SOFIHUB and all the great things that you guys have available to really help people be more independent and yet still stay safe at the same time.

Trevor Rooney:
Absolutely. No, you’re very welcome. And the way I see it just to sort of finally sign off, we’re all about getting people to live better lives, the best lives they can, and if technology’s in the equation well and good.

Josh Anderson:
Amen. Thanks again.

Trevor Rooney:
Thank you very much. Take care.

Josh Anderson:
Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on an assistive technology update? If so, call our listener line at (317)721-7124. Send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org, or shoot us a note on Twitter @IndataProject. Our captions and transcripts for the show are sponsored by the Indiana Telephone Relay Access Corporation or InTRAC. You can find out more about InTRAC at relayindiana.com. A special thanks to Nicole Prieto for scheduling our amazing guests and making a mess of my schedule. Today’s show was produced, edited, hosted, and fraught over by yours truly. The opinions expressed by our guests are their own and may or may not reflect those of the Indata Project, Easterseals Crossroads, our supporting partners or this host. This was your assistive technology update, and I’m Josh Anderson with the Indata Project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. We look forward to seeing you next time.

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