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Speaking to a Smart Speaker

Speaking to a Smart Speaker

There are many innovations and design revelations that, though intended for one group or purpose, have benefitted us all. (See my previous blog about Curb Cuts). 

The one that has been touted as bringing new life to independent living as we age is voice-activated technology. Amazingly, it has been less than 8 years since Apple bought us Siri, five years since Amazon brought us Alexa, and  4 years since Microsoft launched Cortana. Even those of us who don't have a smart speaker home device has gotten used to the fact that we can speak to a machine and it will answer back or change the temperature in the room, dim the lights, play our favorite music or order dinner. We are being told this is only the beginning. Every month there are an increasing number of apps for these devices, although what most people use them for is as a speaker. 

Being able to control one's environment using a system like Google's Nest may become essential to living safely and independently. The question is what more can these devices do? There are services linked to smart speakers like  LifePod, which will  "monitor and support a person's daily routines and help them thrive as they age-in-place." Many apps are free or less than $5.00 per month. This will offer families who want to be able to care for their older relative with dignity many new options.

 An app called, Ask Marvee, which allows you and your loved one to communicate through the basic service for free, can send out a “Morning Beacon” every day to loved ones simply by saying, “Alexa, ask Marvee to say I’m OK.”  Anyone on the pre-selected list will receive the notification by text, email or both. A person can also, through a voice command, request social visits and retrieve news and updates sent by family members." 

The bigger question is will this help with an older person's sense of isolation or loneliness?  Anecdotal evidence would answer yes. In a post on One Good Thing by Jillie she writes that it helped her Mom after her Dad died. 

Randy Rieland, Next Avenue Contributor wrote," David Park, executive director of the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing, has seen first hand the big difference voice-activated devices in letting older adults age in place and avoid social isolation. Park, oversaw a pilot project last year at the Carlsbad by the Sea retirement community near San Diego that introduced a group of residents to Alexa and then closely observed how their use of it evolved..

A second phase of the project offered residents the opportunity to see how Alexa can be tied to “smart home” technology. Soon, a number of them were controlling lights and thermostats in their homes with voice commands. That capability gave people, particularly those with mobility issues, a greater sense of control and independence.

They’re simple things, but these simple things can have tremendous and dramatic implications for daily living,” he said. “It blew us out of the water at how really excited people were."

There is no doubt that the technology and app development will continue to evolve.

Here's hoping it will have great benefits for us all!

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