“…beautiful blend of market and mission” – What we hear from K4Connect CEO Scott Moody

The IoT, home automation, and serving 1.5 billion underserved.

Editor’s note: Scott Moody is Chief Client Advocate, CEO and co-founder of K4Connect, a company that serves older adults and individuals living with disabilities by integrating disparate technologies, among them those designed for the IoT home automation space, into a single system and application. EECatalog recently asked Moody to describe his company’s mission and to address some of the (not always accurate) ideas held about a growing demographic he finds underserved by technology.

EECatalog: What are the pre-conceived notions around older adults and technology that you find to be more myth than fact?

F. Scott Moody, K4Connect

F. Scott Moody, K4Connect

Scott Moody, K4Connect: Probably the foremost one you hear is this idea that seniors do not like technology, which I have truly never believed to be true. Yes, they do not like things designed for somebody fifty or sixty years younger than they are, but if designed for them in mind, they most certainly will use technology. The analogy I use is this, if my daughters give their grandmother a smartphone  with a bunch of icons she can’t see, show her a bunch of apps that she has no interest in at all, and then tell her there are 1.5 million apps she can download, which is not a number that is going to excite Grandma, well, when Grandma sets the phone aside, people say, “See, Grandma doesn’t like technology.” But the analogy is that their grandmother does not wear the same clothes as her granddaughters do, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t like clothes. She just likes clothes designed for her, that are comfortable, that provide utility in her life.

The fact is that if you design something that older adults like, that they can understand, that is relevant to their lives, that provides them true utility in their lives, then I can assure you they will use it. In the end, they don’t think about it as “technology,” but simply a part of their daily lives. The fact is that technology is really only successful when you stop calling it technology, when people see it being a ubiquitous part of their everyday lives.

For many, IoT and home automation devices are simply a convenience, and for some, nothing more than a novelty, but for the demographic we serve, many of these same devices and applications can bring real value and utility to their lives. Take the example of a wireless door lock and a wireless doorbell. For most, these are more of a convenience, heck, we can just get off our butts and answer the door. But for those we serve, someone maybe with a mobility challenge, maybe in a wheelchair, or just not able to quickly make their way down the stairs, knowing who is at that door and being able to open it using our application is actually quite important.

EECatalog: How are K4Connect clients using the solutions you offer?

Moody, K4Connect:  All our systems are designed around three design pillars, what we call: Simpler, Healthier, and Happier. The Simpler elements revolve around the home automation devices you think of, like those door locks and doorbells, but also lights, thermostats, sensors, etc. The Healthier elements logically integrate things like activity trackers, scales, etc, but even have features such as pill reminders and wellness information. And finally, the Happier elements include things like secure video/voice calls, messaging and picture sharing, important particularly for those that may have lost some mobility.

Our applications integrate all these features into a common application, designed specifically for those we serve. And to my point earlier, when designed with our clients in mind, they do use “technology.” Interesting enough, where deployed (our first product is K4Community, specifically designed for the residents and operators of senior living communities), 100% of the clients/residents use the home automation features. This includes things thermostats changing automatically so it’s a little cooler at night, then warming up during the day, and lights coming on automatically if the client is getting out of bed in the middle of the night.

Moreover, for the application itself, almost 75 percent of our clients use the application and, when used, use it an average of 10 to 15 minutes a day—which is pretty darn significant. Those numbers demonstrate that the whole idea that seniors don’t like technology is wrong. Fact is they don’t like technology built for 20- year-olds, just like a 20-year old is not going to appreciate technologies built for a 91-year-old.

EECatalog: How does the underlying architecture contribute to the capabilities K4Connect offers?

Moody, K4Connect: Our patented architecture is the key to what we do, allowing us to offer better reliability and faster speeds. While its seems like everybody [else] rushed to the cloud years ago when it comes to IoT and home automation; we’re using the concept of a fog architecture. Computing power costs have come down so much that there is no reason you can’t have a very small, very inexpensive box in each home/apartment. Thus, if the Internet connection or Wi-Fi is down, your home continues to work and given the local connection, there is very little latency

EECatalog: What should embedded developers know about the market you serve?

Moody, K4Connect: Fact—there are over 1.5 billion people who are either over the age of 65 or living with a disability, and those numbers are going up significantly.

The challenge is that you have to look at this market a bit differently, whereas a lot of people look at this market the same way they look at other markets. They see a problem, they develop a device or application, they make the font a little bigger (i.e. “accessible”) and then they send it out hoping folks will buy. But older adults don’t have the inclination to have to use 10-20 different applications just to control their home. Forget about it being too hard, the fact is that the more complexity you add, the more the foundational utility is diminished. You could have 10 different light bulbs in your home with 10 different apps running them, add to that door locks, door bells, social media, video chat, pill reminders, etc, and next thing you know could be using 50 different apps, none of which work together. Who wants that?

To solve this, we provide a platform and integrate disparate devices, applications and even systems into a single application with a consistent and easy-to-use UI. You may have 10 different light bulbs in the room, but they all have the same UI.

We don’t make the hardware; we don’t make necessarily develop all the applications; we just bring them together into a common application built on our software platform technologies.

Beyond the older adults themselves, senior living communities don’t usually have an  IT staff at the community facility level, so when we walk in and show them we integrate and manage all this functionality, their interest level is amazing. People recognize the value many of these devices and applications can provide to their residents, they just didn’t have a way to manage it all before. We provide that.

EECatalog: Closing thoughts?

Moody, K4Connect: We are very much a mission-centered company, focused on making the lives of the people we serve better, as we said, Simpler, Healthier and Happier. Fact is that we believe if we do that, if we do in fact make the lives of our clients, better, then those around them will benefit as well. But it all starts with bringing first order value to our clients.

In the end, we don’t sell, we serve. And if we do that well, good things will come, but it all hinges around the mission—to serve the underserved.

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