Ever since my parents got older, I’ve be wanting to create a tech company focused solely on making technology available for the elderly in a fashion that is easier for them to understand. Perhaps this will all go away with AI and digital assistants, or when my generation that grew up with tech gets older, but I have watched them struggle sometimes with mobile phones and TV remotes, even ones that are supposed to be simple, and I realize there is probably a market for such solutions.
While I don’t have capital for such an undertaking, I do have access to open source software and hardware, and I have a device idea that shouldn’t require heroic effort to create.
Remember the “Easy Button” from Staples?
What I want is something about the same size, but when you press it, it will send a notice to an app on my phone.
My mother died last year and we recently bought a new home in part because it has a basement apartment where my father can live. He will have his own space but we’ll be close enough to help him out if he needs it.
The idea for this button came to me when I was thinking about what would happen if he needed some help but for whatever reason he couldn’t either call out so that we could hear him or get to a phone. Unless he was severely incapacitated he should be able to press a big button, and since I almost always have my phone with me all I would need would be an app that could send me a notice.
Since my three readers are very smart (and not to mention devilishly attractive) you have probably thought about existing services (remember the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” Life Call ad from 15 years ago?) but older people can be extremely proud and they hate being reminded of their age. I’m pretty certain my father would resist carrying around a device on a lanyard but he wouldn’t mind having a button nearby “just in case”.
The feature set would be pretty short:
- A big button (‘natch)
- Some indication that the button has been pressed (light or buzzer)
- A way to name the button
- Configure the Wi-Fi connection
- Configure a list of users to contact when the button is pressed
For ease of use the first generation of such a device would not be battery powered but if it was there would need to be a way to make sure the battery was charged.
While I have worked with Raspberry Pi boards I have not done anything with the Pi Zero, but I assume this would be a perfect application for it. The original Easy button could be repurposed for this device but there are also a ton of options on Amazon that could work as well.
A bit harder would be the app software, as I am lead to believe getting notices in the background on mobile devices can be tricky and I don’t want to have to have the app running all the time. I have enough skills that I could make something that would send an e-mail (which would remove the need for a separate app) but I’m hoping for a solution with more reliability and less latency. It would be nice to have it send a notice no matter where I am but if it were easier to only work when my phone was on the same local network as the button that would be acceptable (I’m trying to figure out a solution that wouldn’t involve a server).
Anyway, just putting this down as a placeholder for when I have some free time to pursue it, but I also figure someone may have done this already and by posting this I’ll find out about it.