Senior Living Trend: Voice-Command Technology

CAST | March 14, 2017 | by Donna Childress

Voice technology provides health and hospitality and yields revenue.

Voice-command technology is a new trend in senior living, important for its financial and clinical implications, according to a Feb. 27, 2017, article in Senior Housing News. In fact, says “The 21st Century Senior Living Community: Residents Speak, Tech Delivers,” major providers consider voice technology to be critical to residents’ convenience, comfort, and health.
 
One beauty of voice technology is that it is unobtrusive. With a simple command, residents can make a grocery list or dinner reservation or even call for help. In fact, a resident may be more likely to accept a voice-activated emergency system than a traditional push-button emergency pendant, as people often don't wear pendants.
 
Various communities are experimenting with voice-activated technology and through trial and error are finding the technologies that work well.
 
Providers may want to consider Vitality Senior Living’s direction. According to the article, Vitality is defining itself as a technology leader, partially through its use of voice-command technology, which it is piloting in 10 senior living apartments.
 
“I think [voice technology] is the direction of the future, and we are investing a lot of time and resources about how we can implement it into our communities,” Chris Guay, CEO and founder of Vitality Senior Living, told Senior Housing News. Guay considers the cost affordable for the community. He said Vitality is considering charging an upgrade on voice technology and sees it as a potential revenue stream.
 
Some senior living providers are adding software solutions to existing hardware. LifePod is a “voice-controlled caregiver, companion, and digital assistant" that works with existing voice services such as Alexa and Siri. It includes features such as checking on residents throughout the day, reminding them to take their medicines, turning on lights, and the like.
 
Providers have differing opinions on whether voice technology will supplement or supplant tablets. Either way, voice-command technology can enable older adults to stay longer in their current settings. “Visually impaired folks could have it work their lighting, the television, radio, download the events of the day, download reminders,” Guay said. “Now, someone with low vision has a lot more independence.”
 
However, there are challenges as the technology evolves. American Banker published an article on Feb. 21, 2017, entitled "Voice recognition's surprise pitfall: aging customers." Pindrop, which offers voice recognition and caller ID software, presented research last month at the RSA security conference in San Francisco. It found that over two years’ time, voices age so much that voice recognition systems may no longer recognize an infrequent caller.
 
However, the article notes that in a banking environment, where customers call their banks infrequently, voice recognition systems are not able to keep up with customers’ changing voices.  If customers called their banks more often, the article said, this issue would not exist. This caveat suggests that for senior living facilities, if a resident uses the voice-command device often, the technology would continue to recognize and welcome the resident. “This is especially applicable to speaker-dependent voice recognition technologies, like the ones used by banks not only to understand a caller’s commands and instruction, but also to ensure that the caller is the authorized user,” said CAST Executive Director, Majd Alwan.

“Providers interested in using these technologies should ensure the privacy and security of the system, and the types of applications, especially for applications that involve resident’s health information,” he added, explaining that voice command systems that come on as soon as a catch phrase is uttered are always listening.