California to Test A.I. For In-Home Elderly Care

Published on May 18, 2019

Artificial intelligence, or A.I., has the power not just to save us time and money, but to save lives.

For years, consumers have seen the “help me, I’ve fallen” commercials on television, promoting safety buttons for the elderly to press after an incident occurs. The problem with that technology, is that it is not designed to reduce and/or prevent incidents. With artificial intelligence now beginning to enter into the healthcare space, the ability for medical professionals and loved ones to observe and predict abnormal behaviors before something detrimental happens could save a life.

Injecting artificial intelligence, or A.I., into the home, can transform healthcare, allowing patients to live longer, safer, and more comfortably, within the confines of their home, inexpensively.

By 2060, the number of Americans aged 65 and older are projected to more than double from 46 million to over 98 million. Home health care is generally very expensive, with the median cost of a 24/7 caregiver circling around $12,500 a month. While the number of seniors in America is growing rapidly, most want to live at home while they age. But, there’s one issue—they need supervision. Seniors are at a much greater risk for falls and they need medications and round the clock care.

A.I. provides a device or software program with the ability to interpret complex data, including images, video, text, speech, and/or other sounds, upon which that device or software program can then act on that particular interpretation to produce an end-result.

As of 2017, there were over 53,000 devices using A.I. for the purposes of capturing patient data. That number is expected to increase exponentially by 2021, with over 3.1 million devices being used.

Why Aren’t More States Doing This?

Unfortunately, many of these startups targeting hospitals are facing roadblocks, such as budgeting concerns and an overall distrust with the technology. Why? Facebook would be the company to ask on that one.

Protecting personally identifiable information (“PII”) and personal health information (“PHI”) is of utmost importance in today’s digital era. These A.I. models need to be well-versed and trained to protect PII and PHI, which is one of the main reasons for the distrust.

With the increasing costs of hiring and training caregivers, implementing artificial intelligence can help to provide valuable insight as to senior behavior, while reducing the costs, which stagger around $12,500 per month.

The biggest hurdle for machine learning continues to be the immense and voluminous amounts of data required to teach devices how to interpret complex patterns. Implementing A.I. into the healthcare model requires a great deal of testing.

California Is Latest to Join Pilot Program

Back in March of last year, IBM’s Watson was implemented in home healthcare out in Wilsonville, Oregon. Avamere Family of Companies, which provides independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing settings began piloting IBM’s Watson to learn more about where its patients should be in the overall health continuum, based on their rate of recovery.

IBM’s technology has been loaded with Avamere’s historical, deidentified patient data, while receiving real-time data from sensors that are installed to help capture information about current residents’ and patients’ behavior and health indicators.

California is the latest player to penetrate this market, with its recent announcement that it will be participating in a pilot program with Cherry Home, created by Cherry Labs. A Cupertino startup founded in 2016 by entrepreneurs Max Goncharov, Stas Veretennikov, and Nick Davidov, Cherry Home is an A.I. in-home system that allows users to detect and track individuals with vision sensors and microphones.

Through the program, families will be able to install its hardware for free through a number of participating care agencies.

Previously, Cherry Labs received $5.2 million in funding from GSR Ventures to drive partnerships with elderly care agencies, primarily in the San Francisco Bay area. The companies first pilot was with TheraCare, an in-home caregiving service, and TriCura, a tech platform that uses mobile apps to capture and share information among families, caregivers, and agencies.

Cherry Home has claimed that its proprietary algorithms can distinguish people by their faces, lengths of their limbs, colors of their clothes and hair, and other “complex body parameters.”

The company’s devices are able to use computer vision algorithms to turn optical data such as video footage, which never leaves the device, as it is processed locally, into virtual skeletons, in order to detect anomalies. These anomalies are then provided in real-time to caregivers and family members.

From a privacy standpoint, all video footage is processed on the device, and not sent to third party storage providers, including the cloud, unlike other smart home assistants on the market.

When it comes to protecting the integrity of patient data, the system replaces individuals in the video with animate “stick figures” so the caregiver can get an idea of what happened, without intruding on the senior’s personal space or privacy.

Cherry Labs’ artificial intelligence technology shows individuals as stick figures so you can watch and observe behavioral patterns of loved ones

Families in California who use participating in-home professional care-giving agencies will pay no fee for the hardware, which was previously sold at $1,600 to $2,000 per home.

Agencies will only be responsible for paying the A.I.-monitoring subscription fee per sensor, which comes out to approximately $60. Cherry Labs, according to Nick Davidov, co-founder and President of the company, isn’t just a hardware company though.

“Our main product is a tool for family and caregivers, and the main value it provides is staying connected-making seniors and caregivers more aware of what’s going on, which results in better care.”

Davidoff also co-founded Cagarin Capital and served as an advisor to MSQRD, which was acquired by Facebook and, which ultimately ended up in the hands of Google.

Grit Daily spoke with Max Goncharov, the co-founder and CEO of Cherry Labs, learning more about the pilot program.

Grit Daily: Since the launch of this program, what would you say has been the biggest benefit?

Max Goncharov: We’ve seen great results in the San Francisco Bay Area so far. Most importantly, our partner agencies’ client happiness went up since the families are now receiving regular updates and summaries from the system on the seniors well-being and daily activities. It bridges the gap of living far away from parents and allows family members to feel more connected to seniors and better understand the value which the caregivers are providing. Agency personnel can easily edit and add more juice to these summaries through the agency interface, including caregivers’ notes and the list of activities they performed with the senior.

GD: Can you explain more about the interface?

MG:The agency interface allows one person to monitor over 80 families at the same time, reacting to emergencies and chatting with families as needed. With this interface, an agency can have somebody monitoring the interface 24/7, so they can react to notifications and questions asked by relatives, or visually validate and dismiss alerts as false-positives, simply by looking at the stick-person animation.

GD: How does the hardware itself work?

MG: The home unit processes everything on-site, ensuring privacy. Videos can be saved and stored locally in an encrypted way, or discarded immediately. There is also a “private mode,” where people simply appear as animated virtual skeletons, or stick figures, or a “full-video mode.”

Perhaps the future of home healthcare lies within the realm of artificial intelligence. Time will tell.

Andrew "Drew" Rossow is an award-winning journalist and former News Editor at Grit Daily. Joining in 2019, he was instrumental in Grit Daily's "year two" and in Grit Daily House, the alt-SXSW activation that Fast Company described as bringing "SXSW back to its roots." He is a nominal co-founder at Grit Daily.

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