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What is the Kanega watch?
Focus groups have called Kanega watch a ‘wearable OnStar™ for seniors’ because we provide discreet support for falls, medication reminders, and a guard against wandering in a classically styled watch that uses an easy speech interface rather than buttons.
Unlike traditional Personal Emergency Response Systems that tether you to your home, we go where YOU go, 24x7 – and unlike an Apple Watch or Samsung Gear, NO smartphone is needed.
Kanega is generations beyond Help, I've Fallen - a stigmatizing scenario for you or your loved ones.The Kanega watch lets the wearer be independent because it learns the wearer's lifestyle and notices falls, missed medications, and potential wandering events. No other product can give you the support that the Kanega watch provides; discretion and a classic appearance are an extra bonus!
- Always Ready to Help
- You can wear Kanega 24x7, so you don't forget to put it back on
- It can help with issues at night (like trips to the bathroom)
- It’s waterproof, not just water resistant, so you can wear it in the shower/bath (where a majority of falls happen), and also in your water aerobics class, gardening, or other activities
- It works anywhere you go, so you’re free to travel (not trapped in your home)
- It doesn't require a smartphone, so you're wearing all you need to stay safe
- Features Discreet Styling
- Because it looks like a traditional watch, there's no stigma of visibly "needing" assistance
- It requests permission to speak by buzzing on the wearer's wrist, so there's no visual or audible stigma of wearing an assistive device when socially inappropriate (like in church, or at your bridge club)
- It can connect to the latest generation of hearing aids, so it never speaks out loud - just to your hearing aids
- It doesn't require buttons to operate, both to reduce stigma and so it works even if you're unconscious, unable to move, or unable to talk
- It uses standard watch bands, so you can choose the style and comfort factor that is right for you
- Easy-to-Use Speech
- You name your watch, so it's easy to remember how to talk to it
- Speech recognition happens on the watch, but anything that isn't recognized goes to the operators for human intervention
Why Are We Building the Kanega watch?
I started the company UnaliWear when my mom was 80. During a period of six months there were small incidents with both mom and her identical twin sister that showed me their vulnerability.
Aunt Jean fell off a kitchen step stool and had to get stitches. Then one morning I watched mom take her COPD medication the wrong way.
Like many of us with older loved ones, I investigated all the Personal Emergency Response Systems on the market. When I sat down with mom to talk about what she wanted. Her response was unequivocal: "I'm not wearing any of those things, don't you dare buy it - I won't wear it!"
I wasn't thrilled with any of the options either, because I wanted something that worked wherever mom went - she's still active and I want her to remain so.
Together, our problems with the solutions on the market today boiled down to three things:
- They're Just Plain Ugly
(My mom was a model most of her life, and as you can see in the picture above, both she and Aunt Jean are supremely stylish.)
- They're Limited to The Home Unless Tethered to a SmartPhone (which my mom, and 95% of her age group, does not have - or want.)
- Big HELP Buttons are Socially Stigmatizing
You see the button, you think, "Oh, this poor dear is no longer in control of her own life."
I'm an engineer and a serial entrepreneur, so I left retirement (after selling my last company to Texas Instruments and the one before that to Apple) to start UnaliWear and gathered an awesome team to build something that my mother and I both would be willing to wear to remain safe as we age in place. The UnaliWear team has conducted many focus groups, built a number of prototypes, and now it's time for that last push to market.
#1 Aging Fear is Loss of Control ...
Extending Independence with Dignity
If you are older, or are close to older adults in your life, then aging with dignity and self-dependence are important to you.
In fact, it's important to a lot of people. Our focus groups helped us understand what "independence with dignity" really means. Nielson's Global Aging Report (Feb.'14) reports that, globally, the biggest concern about life in old age is "losing self-reliance to care for basic needs." If you are older, or are close to older adults in your life, then this probably makes all the sense in the world to you.
Think of all the aging-in-place products you know of in the market today. They all TAKE AWAY CONTROL from the wearer. Press the button, and they'll let your daughter know you fell. Skip a dose of your medication, and they'll tell your son that you're non-compliant. Don't open the refrigerator for a day, and they'll assume you didn't eat.
No wonder families buy these products for their loved ones, and then their loved ones hang them on the bedpost and forget them! Wouldn't you?
That same Nielson study says another aging concern is "being a burden on family members or friends." Your parents, like my mom in the video, are concerned about being a burden to those they love. They want to be independent and make their own decisions, and the Kanega watch does that.
You - and those you love - want to live independently and with dignity. That's why we invented technology to do just that. We handle watch "set up" through a conversation with one of our operators who guides the wearer in making decisions about the watch's behavior to suit their personal needs.
How does Kanega work?
The videos below (featuring my wonderful mom) show how Kanega works. You speak to it, and it speaks to you. ("Kanega" is from Cherokee for "speak").
In these videos, mom has named her watch "Fred Astaire."
Wearer-to-Watch Scenarios: Directions home / Get Help! / Show Medications
Watch-to-Wearer Scenarios: Guard Against Wandering, Detecting Falls, Medication Reminder (With Request for Instructions)
Technology in the Kanega watch
In addition to providing the time and date information, the Kanega watch contains cellular, Wi-Fi, and GPS communications, continuous speech recognition, and a 9-axis accelerometer for fall detection. Kanega handles all daily intelligence for providing an unobtrusive continuous welfare check. The display includes lighting for use at night.
Kanega also includes Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE, also called Bluetooth Smart) communications, which allows wearers with the newest generation of hearing aids that include BLE to have their watch speak only into their hearing aids, never out loud. BLE also allows the watch to serve as the communications gateway for home telemedicine devices. All sensitive communications are encrypted for your security and privacy, and we treat your confidential information in accordance with HIPAA requirements.
Technology in The Cloud
In the cloud, we do the actual learning of a wearer's lifestyle with machine learning artificial intelligence. As we learn more about each wearer by being a part of their life, we update the lifestyle information in the watch each night while the wearer is sleeping. (This update is automatic - there's nothing the wearer has to do). We also make that connection with pharmacies for your medication reminders in the cloud, and automatically bring medication updates into the watch nightly. We use Verizon's HIPAA-compliant cloud to keep your information private and secure.
What do the names mean?
We just re-branded the company as UnaliWear, which derives from the Cherokee word "Unalii" (friend), and the watch itself as "Kanega", from the Cherokee word for "speak". We were previously known as LifeAssist (you'll see that in some of the images and videos).
UnaliWear Kanega watch is the friend that speaks to you - it fits our dignity model!
My team and I have manufactured and brought many high technology products to market during the past 30 years. I have already engaged a team of experts to ensure that we deliver a quality watch to our wearers.
Note: if you back us as an "Influencer" or "Super-Influencer", you will play a key role as we refine the user interface to be what you really want it to be. Today's demos are close, but we aren't there yet; we want to make the watch's "voice" more personable and usable. Help us get it right so that we can all age in place with dignity!
The professional sourcing company that I've partnered with has manufactured many other products including many of the smart watches and fitness wearables in the market today. They have an experienced team in the field to assist with quality control, shipping, and other logistics.
We want you to have your Kanega watch as soon as possible. Here's our plan to achieve that:
- February/March: Meet lots of wearers and their families through Kickstarter
- April-June: Final supplier/factory selection
- May: Final components in a Kanega watch, local US build
- June-August: Factory/engineering prototype iterations for tooling, waterproofing, and manufacturability
- August: Tooling build-out and procurement of raw materials and components
- September: Pilot build, initial qualification for FCC/CE/PTCRB certifications
- October-December: Pilot user program
- December: Initial production, final qualifications
- January/February: Begin fulfillment
Risks and challenges
No one wants to see a great product executed poorly, especially a product for our loved ones' safety. We have worked extremely hard to ready the Kanega watch for Kickstarter and full-scale manufacturing and fulfillment, but here are what I see as the risks:
MANUFACTURING: Creating the tooling to manufacture a product of this level of intricate detail is expensive and requires expert knowledge to get it right. There is typically a 60-day lead time to create the tooling for a product of this complexity and this is where delays could occur. To minimize that possibility, we're working with tooling manufacturing partners with a track record for prompt quality.
PRODUCT ADJUSTMENTS: As the Kanega watch gets geared up for production, there will likely be some minor adjustments to improve the final product. Pre-production prototypes are made to test and refine the product and allow us to incorporate our adjustments and those suggested by experienced manufacturing partners, along with making any changes required for compliance certifications (such as FCC requirements). Changes will always be made for the benefit of you, the consumer, and we will let you know exactly how and why any are made.
FULFILLMENT: Sometimes things go awry that simply can't be planned for: a supplier misses a deadline, a machine breaks down, or a shipment gets lost. Those things could cause a delay. To minimize the possibility of manufacturing setbacks, we will enter the manufacturing stage with key components staged in stock and my product commercialization experts will help ensure smooth sailing from our suppliers and factories.
We will be working with manufacturers who have years of experience delivering excellent products in large quantities. There will no doubt be some surprises along the road, but any obstacles will be addressed by combining our internal knowledge with external expertise, and an overall goal of making the best possible product for your and your loved ones.
THE FINE PRINT (PLEASE READ THIS!)
-- Cellular coverage may vary
Kickstarter version of the Kanega watch will be connected directly to either the AT&T wireless network, or to the Verizon wireless network. You will select which one you want as we prepare for reward fulfillment. At that time, we'll also update you on the coverage map for each provider so that you can choose what's right for you. Cellular coverage is not available everywhere; you will not be able to contact our operators or 9-1-1 when there is neither cellular nor Wi-Fi available.
-- We cannot guarantee that all falls will be automatically detected
Kanega includes a 9-axis accelerometer to automatically detect suspected fall events, but some falls are so gradual as to not be recognized as a fall (for example, a sliding fall from a wheelchair). We recommend that wearers use either the speech interface or the tap interface when they need help.
-- Medication reminders won't work for the willfully non-compliant
The majority of seniors 65+ take 5 or more medications a day, and 63% say they forget doses. We've found that most medication non-compliance is normal human forgetfulness - not willful non-compliance. Kanega is designed to complement normal human forgetfulness; we can't make you take your medications. We wouldn't anyway, because that violates our behavioral goal of unobtrusive assistance with dignity.
-- Kickstarter backers with Kanega watch rewards may need Wi-Fi in their homes
UnaliWear aggregates the cellular subscription needed for all wearers, and your monthly service fee includes your cellular subscription (no extra bills to AT&T or Verizon). As we launch in the general market, we plan to also aggregate Wi-Fi subscription fees for wearers who don't have Wi-Fi today. For initial Kickstarter backers, if you do not have cellular coverage through your entire home environment, you will need to have Wi-Fi already present in the home environment.
-- Kickstarter backers with Kanega watch rewards: Intially, it works only in the contiguous USA, and Kanega speaks only English
Kickstarter versions of Kanega will work only in the continental US, and are for English-speakers only, both for the speech recognition in the watch, and for speaking to an operator for watch setup and if you need help. We will be adding both additional language support and international monitoring as we grow - but we're starting at home where we see a great need.
Any pledge amount brings us one step closer to our goal of extending independence with dignity for millions of vulnerable seniors. Show that your support independence with dignity by clicking the "Back This Project" button at the top of the page, or by helping us spread the word by sharing our page.
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