Google, Apple and Amazon open-up new era for Agetech

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They may be competitors in the tech market, but Apple, Amazon and Google have decided to put their differences aside in a move that will accelerate Agetech roll-outs and help older people to live independently for longer.

They’re among the biggest technology companies on the planet, and are usually staunch rivals. However, in what analysts have described as a “surprising” move, Apple, Google, Amazon, and the Zigbee Alliance have announced they have decided to “play nice” by working together in a bid to make home technology devices compatible with different smartphones and voice assistants [1].

The new working group went live today under the name of “Project Connected Home over IP” with announcement blog posts from Google, Apple, Zigbee, and a new website, connectedhomeip.com. “Connected Home over IP”, which abbreviates to “CHIP”, appeared for the first time within these announcements – maybe it really will be “Chips with everything”.

With the likes of Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri dominating the voice assistant market, manufacturers have previously had to choose which one to make their devices compatible with, meaning that use of smart home tech could be disjointed and confusing, particularly for the elderly who could find it hard to use more than one voice assist system.

Co-operation between the three tech giants, as well as other members of the Zigbee Alliance, which includes dozens more companies including Ikea and Samsung, could be a major step forward in the use of smart home technology as an aid to independent living.

Interoperability has previously been a major issue for smaller start-ups who want their devices to work across common platforms. 

This latest move follows calls from the US Institute of Medicine, which said that “designing technologies today for an accessible tomorrow should be a national priority”. 

With lifespan increasing, smart home tech can help people to live more independently for longer, not only reducing the burden on health and social care systems, but also ensuring that older people can enjoy a better quality of life for longer. 

Technology is already benefiting the elderly in a variety of ways. [2] For instance, smart home tech is being used to remind the elderly that they need to take their medication. Voice-assisted technology in the home can also be used to carry out tasks including regulating home temperature, playing media and organisation. 

Plus, it is not just the giant technology companies which are developing innovative independent solutions. Start-up Kintell aims to develop home tech to allow older people to remain independent for longer before intervention becomes necessary. Meanwhile, TrueLoo is developing a smart toilet which can detect health issues

The major technology behemoths have clearly stated their commitment to investing in voice-assisted technologies, with Apple stating an intention to grow healthcare operations and Amazon also has a fund set aside for voice technology. Overall, the Agetech market is slated to grow from $1 to $2 trillion

It is now vital that start-up companies who are designing innovative smart home technology solutions for independent living align themselves with the standards announced by the new alliance as quickly as possible – not to do so would be a negative when it comes to fundraising. Ensuring they get funding in place will help older people live a better quality of life for longer.  

[1] https://www.ft.com/content/2d6add54-21b0-11ea-b8a1-584213ee7b2b

[2] http://bit.ly/35D4Hqd

Eleanor Garth
Deputy Editor Now a science and medicine journalist, Eleanor worked as a consultant for university spin-out companies and provided research support at Imperial College London and various London hospitals in a former life.

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