2025 analogue phone network switch-off presents opportunity for in-home IoT monitoring firm Kemuri.
Vulnerable people living alone may have falls or illnesses that may remain undetected for days and they can suffer from life-threatening dehydration, urinary tract infections or hypothermia; they may not be able to reach the kitchen for drinking and eating as normal and be unable to call for help.
British start-up Kemuri has developed K-Sockets, which learn and monitor patterns of normal kitchen-based activity every hour, including motion, temperature, power usage and power supply, and automatically alert responders if they detect risks.
With decades of experience in technology and innovation, Dr Leonard Anderson founded Kemuri after the experience of seeing his mother’s health decline as she suffered dementia. We spoke to Dr Anderson to find out more.
Longevity.Technology: What Longevity IoT challenge is Kemuri addressing?
Dr Anderson: When my mother went through dementia, I realised how important the kitchen is to supporting a healthy life. As an elderly person, if you can’t make it to the kitchen for some reason, then it probably means you aren’t eating or drinking either and that’s obviously very dangerous. We’re focused on preventing older people dying from dehydration, malnutrition or hypothermia, whether due to a fall or some other reason for not being able to reach the kitchen – sickness or a stroke for example.
Longevity.Technology: And how did you get started?
Dr Anderson: I knew great people with strengths in machine learning, artificial intelligence and the internet of things, so it seemed like an easy idea to put together a kitchen-based system that would monitor her use of the kettle and toaster, along with some motion detection. The system would learn the patterns of “normal” behaviour and then be able to alert someone when those patterns change significantly. We designed the monitoring component of the system in the form of a very familiar looking plug socket, which contains all the sensors and communications technology. And that’s basically the core of what we do today.
Our algorithms work, and the AI minimises false positives, which is a flaw in many rule-based systems. There has to be a clear combination of multiple factors to trigger an alert – not just because someone has missed making a cup of tea!
Longevity.Technology: How do the IoT K-Sockets communicate the alerts?
Dr Anderson: This is a key point. All the processing of data and algorithm work is conducted in the cloud and the system also needs to connect to the internet to deliver the alerts to the responders via our app, but the elderly people who we designed this product for are often not broadband customers. So we designed the K-Sockets to communicate via the mobile GSM network.
Longevity.Technology: What is your commercialisation model?
Dr Anderson: We have a B2B model and focus on councils [local authorities], the NHS and housing providers. This is primarily because of the requirement to get informed consent from people being monitored by our product. These organisations have direct contact with these people and are in a much better position to ensure that consent has been given.
We are predominantly UK-focused at the moment, but with the right investment in engineering and technology, we have a truly global product.
Longevity.Technology: What are your growth plans over the next year and beyond?
Dr Anderson: There is an interesting opportunity that stems from the fact that BT is switching off the analogue phone network in 2025. There are about 1.5 million pendant alarm telecare devices operational in the UK today, and they use the analogue phone network for backhaul and communicating to control centres. This means that all these devices need to be upgraded in some way over the next five years, which will present councils with a lot of upheaval and potential costs running to several hundred million pounds.
To address this opportunity, we are developing our own pendant alarm system, called a K-Fob, which is a cheaper alternative and communicates via a low-power wide-area network (LPWAN). This means it does not require a home hub, and people can simply be sent home from hospital with one in their pocket, for example. We’ll be launching this next year.
Longevity.Technology: How are you funded and what are your plans for further fundraising?
Dr Anderson: We’ve raised £1.2 million in equity so far via venture capital and high net worth individuals and we’re looking to raise a further £2.5 to £5 million next year to support our growth.
Longevity.Technology: What are the main business challenges you face?
Dr Anderson: Working predominantly in the public sector means long sales pipeline and working within public sector budgets. Public sector budgeting is one of the key issues facing many start-ups in the Longevity sector. There is a challenge for innovation, as most public sector organisations are focused on keeping old systems running as there is little or no budget for implementing new ones. But the fact is, with the analogue phone system being switched off, change is coming now whether people like it or not – so action has to be taken.
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