Independa Launches ‘Smart Reminders’ Service to Help Elderly and Their Caregivers

1/6/11Follow @bvbigelow

San Diego-based Independa was in stealth mode until September, when founding CEO Kian Saneii gave a presentation about the startup and its technology at the Demo conference in San Jose.

Today, Saneii is unveiling Independa’s first apps at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “This is the first time that customers can sign up for our service, so it’s huge,” says Saneii. “This is very much about customers.”

The company was founded less than two years ago with the goal of using innovations in IT and wireless technologies to help the elderly continue to live independently in the comfort and familiarity of their own homes. Saneii says he also hopes Independa will be in the vanguard of a “revolution in the healthcare industry from outside.” He believes new technology players outside the healthcare establishment must drive cost cutting in healthcare. As he puts it, “You really can’t do it from the inside. At the end of the day, everyone on the inside is aligned to hold the [existing] system together.”

Kian Seneii

Kian Seneii

The company says its first offering is called the Independa “Smart Reminders” service, a Web-based platform that combines apps for smart calendaring, medication reminders, and “life stories” into a browser-based system managed by caregivers.

The browser-based calendar is “one-sided,” meaning that a caregiver handles all the scheduling for an elderly relative, who doesn’t have to know anything about the technology. Rather, the app triggers automated telephone calls that remind the elderly relative of appointments, birthdays and other important dates.

The system also can be used to trigger automated phone calls that remind someone to take his prescribed medications. Independa says nearly one in four people who are 65 or older forget or skip regular doses of their prescribed meds. Calls to the care receiver are scheduled by the system, which requires the care receiver to respond to a recorded prompt (“Press 1 to confirm that you’ve taken your meds.”) Independa’s system can send caregivers alerts (by text message, e-mail, or phone call) if the loved one fails to respond to the prompts, and can generate reports to help families assess how well mom is keeping her medication schedule.

In a similar way, Independa’s “life stories” app uses a telephone prompt to help care receivers share stories from their past. “We’re recording, so we memorialize that and turn it into a wave file that we send to you,” Saneii says. The underlying idea of the Smart Reminders service is to help families minimize the badgering and prodding aspects of care giving, i.e. calling to remind someone to take their meds, and to engage families in ways that help them stay connected.

“In this market, it’s always about health and safety,” Saneii says. “And that’s very important, but it’s not everything. It’s also about social connections.”

Independa's "dashboard" for care givers

Independa's "dashboard" for care givers

Independa’s team will be demonstrating the Smart Reminders service in the Qualcomm booth at CES, along with a prototype of an Android-based wireless tablet with a touch-screen interface, dubbed “Angela,” designed to connect with wireless sensors in the care receiver’s home. The tablet will communicate with sensors so, for example, it can send an alert to caregivers if the elderly care receiver forgets to turn off the water or doesn’t get out of bed.

“We’re looking to standardize our technology on an Android tablet with [Qualcomm's] Snapdragon chip,” Saneii says. Qualcomm is hosting Independa in its booth, he adds, because, “We very much share and are implementing the vision that Qualcomm has with regard to mHealth.”

Independa is releasing its Smart Reminders service as a way of generating some revenue now, “and then after CES going into design and production for the Angela product,” Saneii says. The company recently moved into EvoNexus, the free incubator established by CommNexus, San Diego’s non-profit wireless industry group, and has raised $1 million in what the CEO calls “venture seed financing” (a combination of individual investors and a loan).

Independa plans to offer its Smart Reminders service free for a six-week trial, with ongoing subscriptions starting at $19.95 a month. The company also says it is launching a monthly awards program for subscribers who demonstrate “the most impressive uses” of its Smart Reminders service. The company plans to issue a $500 award each month, and monthly award recipients will be eligible for a $5,000 “caregiver of the year” award at the end of this year.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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