About every third or fourth design student I meet has a concept for helping the elderly call for help from their homes. I just saw another one last night at the Parsons show. One might wonder why such devices aren’t widespread by now.
I ran into my friend Bill recently who works as a CTO for a company that sells such a system. He says the challenge isn’t at the device level, it’s downstream of the device: having a widespread network of installers who understand the system and who have an incentive to sell the system, maintenance, infrastructure, and so on. The device is the easy part.
Reinventing this wheel isn’t all bad, it probably helps students learn a lot about device design. But solving this problem (which is what design is all about) won’t happen until one considers the whole system and also designs a business model within which the device operates.
To quote John Thackara, “…connectivity is at least as much about [the design of clever business models] as it is about the private ownership of technological devices. The Doors crowd learned this lesson ten years ago when the extraordinary Sam Pitroda spoke at Doors 4, in 1996. Pitroda enabled hundreds of millons of people to gain access to telephony in India by designing the Public Call Office (PCO) concept – a low-tech, high-smarts system based on the clever sharing of devices and infrastructure.“