O2 has launched a telcare device to help carers keep tabs on the vulnerable and sick. The product could mark the start of significant new revenue for business, and will be sold through O2 shops and via Sainsbury’s pharmacies.
Help at Hand is a handset with a fall detector, GPS tracking, designated ‘safe zones’ that inform carers if an ill person moves outside of a set area and a one touch button that connects to a 24/7 support centre. The device, which was made by Oyster, costs £99 and the monitoring service costs £20 per month. It can store four predesignated numbers that can be called on prepay credit.
Speaking to Mobile, Nikki Flanders (pictured), MD of O2 Health, said: ‘As we stand today we see a significant potential for mobile health technology meeting the needs of the population. It’s a significant growth area for us but in pounds I can’t say how much it will be. We need to drive the awareness so that people understand the options that are now on offer.’
The service was trialled last year with more than 200 ill people and carers, as well as councils such as Leeds. Flanders said between 30 and 50 people at the council tested the device and provided feedback on how it could work better. She said the majority of the sales will initially be taken up by the public sector, but she added the changing economic situation would affect the business in the longer term.
According to estimates from the Carers Trust, around 7 million of the UK’s population care for a relative or friend. Flanders said: ‘Considering the fiscal issues and the lack of resources in the health sector, will we be able to have the one that we need? Products like this give us the option to take control of our own care. The majority of sales will come from the public sector and social scare. As we evolve, fiscal pressures will mean this is bound to change sooner rather than later.’
In the longer term, O2 Health will look to building a smartphone app that can provide the same services as the device. Flanders said the initial focus was to build a device that was easy to use but the technology will change ‘very very rapidly’. She said: ‘Our website will evolve and then the new devices or apps will actually be very, very flexible.’
The device will be available in O2 shops, online and through 100 Sainsbury’s pharmacies. The operator will not initially market the service through a television campaign but will instead focus on digital channels. Flanders said: ‘We are on the cusp of a bit of a technology revolution in mobile health and the role it can play in enabling us to take care of ourselves or those who we care about.’
Author: Graeme Neill