Russ: Hi I’m Russ Capper and this is The BusinessMakers Show coming to you today from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and I’m very pleased to have as my guest Marc Cayle, Founder and COO of OnKöl. Marc welcome to the show.
Marc: Thank you for having me.
Russ: You bet. First of all OnKöl is spelled O – N – K – O – L?
Marc: Correct, it’s a play on words really because you’re always on call as the adult childcare giver. And also 5 letters when you do search engine optimization works out real well, we’ve spent zero.
Russ: Fantastic. Tell us about OnKöl.
Marc: So OnKöl is inspired by my background in in-home care. We had a large agency with 250 caregivers running in and out of people’s homes and when my client care coordinators would come back to the office they would say nobody knows what’s going on. It was frustrating on all accounts. The families wanted to know what was going on, it was very difficult for us to tell them all the time what was going on and believe it or not the seniors themselves wanted others to know that they were okay or if they weren’t okay.
The only thing we had at the time to offer was a device called a personal emergency response system which is basically a button that you push after you already fell. So that also gets frustrating because the seniors won’t push the button; they say I don’t want to bother anybody, I don’t want the EMTs to come to my house and knock my $1200.00 door down – because that’s what they have to do. So we would walk into the house, my caregivers would find Mrs. Smith on the floor, not hurt, with her button in her hand and we would say why didn’t you push the button; well I didn’t want to cause a ruckus.
It dawned on me that if we got the families involved and they could triage these events first of all the senior would be more apt to push the button if they knew that the kids would be instead of just the emergency people. And what if we could prevent these catastrophic events to begin with so we can prevent instead of react to these events? And there was nothing out there. So one thing led to another and I sold the business, started developing OnKöl and then we wound up getting local venture capital money and here we are.
Russ: All right, fantastic. Of course you’ve always been in this space but man the senior care business just has to be booming because the number of baby boomers – my generation – that need help is just growing daily.
Marc: 10,000 people turn 65 everyday so it is a gigantic opportunity. There are a lot of companies identifying that and so the space is going to be very, very crowded. We feel that we have a very good leg up because we got in a little bit early, we’re actually ahead of the curve for a lot of people because tele-health and remote monitoring is a relatively new thing.
Russ: So how long have you been out there?
Marc: We got funded in February of ’13 and there was a lot of research and development to do; it is hardware and hardware is hard. So we wanted to do the industrial design, we wanted to make sure that the firmware and the software was very good. It has all been done in the Midwest – the design has been done here. The board design is a smart hub, it’s not just a hub that uses the Cloud to do all the calculations and everything; it is literally done inside this device. There are several different radios in there that gather the inbound information so it’s a very complicated device, but we want it to be as simple as possible to the end user so that took a lot of research and development.
So we had pilots out for about a year to gather more information from potential customers and they gave us great feedback. We went back to the drawing board and this all takes time. And so we are now in a position that we feel that we are ready to go. We had our first production run a few months ago and we have additional pilots out in the field now and we are – everything is going really well. People are re-ordering, we are very excited about how things are going.
Russ: Cool. Well I’m sure our viewers can understand that we’re talking about this device, do you call your device OnKöl?
Russ: Okay, so what all does the device OnKöl do? What does it measure?
Marc: So it sits in the home and it’s cellular in nature so it doesn’t have to be tied to an Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi. It does that too but we figured that cellular is the most reliable and it even has a little cellular indicator on the front so you can literally walk it around the house and find the best cellular signal. There’s a few different devices out there that gather health information, so scales, blood pressure cuffs, glucometers if you have diabetes, pulse oximeters and other medical devices that people would use to have an understanding of what their health is.
So if you go home with congestive heart failure you know that you have to take your weight every morning, you have to take your pulse ox reading and your blood pressure to make sure that everything is going well. A very good indicator of something not going well with congestive heart failure is you’re going to gain weight overnight – water weight. So if you weigh yourself in the morning and you weigh more than 2lbs more than you did going to bed we can literally set this up that it would send an alert to caregivers, physicians or adult children, whomever it might be that want that information, so they can intervene, understand what’s going on, get that person to the doctor instead of an ER visit because that could be a re-admit which is a whole other story that we can talk about. But get involved early and intervene so this doesn’t become a catastrophic event that you have to react to.
So here we are preventing a potential problem. So we have health on one side and then we have home monitoring on another. So you have door and window sensors; you can put a door window sensor on the refrigerator for instance so that if you are under the understanding that Mom isn’t eating very well – and nutrition is a gigantic problem with seniors – if we can understand that Mom didn’t open the refrigerator in the last 6 hours we know she didn’t try to eat, right? So you can make an outbound call to Mom or the caregiver can make an outbound call to Mrs. Smith and say how are you feeling today? Have you eaten yet? So just to get everyone engaged in this conversation so that we can make sure that we can keep people home where they want to be as long as possible.
Russ: So some of it actually requires interaction with the elderly person too, right?
Russ: So some of these devices have to be plugged in and touching the person, what else? Can it pick up voice; can you talk to it?
Marc: So if there’s an emergency and this would be a good understanding of when you push an emergency button it most of the time will go to a call center. So we actually simultaneously send the alert to the adult child, the call center and a physician or whoever the caregiver might be. In this case whoever gets that alert first can call that elderly person back and everyone on the call tree is notified that that person has been called so they can stand down. If the person doesn’t answer the phone it can escalate to 911 to the call center. When that call center then calls the elderly person it has a microphone and a two way voice speaker so they can speak to each other through this device from almost anywhere in the house.
The speaker is teeny tiny, but it’s amazing the technology that goes into these things so that the call center can turn off and on the volume and the microphone and the speaker remotely so that they’re getting everything that they need to hear and to talk to that person directly. If that person doesn’t respond then they can send an ambulance or whatever they need to do. So the emergency call center can talk through this, but not just if you just call them on it. It’s not meant like that.
And in addition, because it has a great speaker in it and it’s real wood and it’s very clear when this comes out we can do medication reminders. So it literally talks to the senior saying it is time to take your medication, please push the front button when you did. And this front button turns colors; it will be purple at that point for reminders and it’ll say push the purple button when you did. And then the person would push that button and the alert would go out saying that the medication was taken.
Russ: And so many people it seems like that I know of that fall in this category take multiple medications and sometimes different times of the day, can it handle that too?
Marc: Interestingly enough we are speaking with a company – I just talked to them yesterday – that does you know how the pill packs come?
Russ: Oh yeah.
Marc: So they’ve developed a pill pack where you have pills throughout the day and the pharmacy fills morning, mid and evening medications – when the foil is punched it can send an alert blue tooth to this device and we can get an alert saying not only was the reminder acknowledged, but the pill pack was actually opened. There’s also companies that are developing RFID – Radio Frequency ID – that go in the pill and then they have a patch on their body so when the pill is digested you actually know it’s in the body. That’s future, it’s pretty expensive right now, but it’s definitely on the road map; it’s happening now. The technology that’s out there is unbelievable.
Russ: How many do you have in people’s homes right now?
Marc: Our first production run was 200 units and we are just about sold out; they’re either in pilots or have been purchased and they’re being used right now.
Russ: Have you had experiences that are like success stories or do success stories happen and therefore you don’t have any feedback; how does it work?
Marc: We have had a lot of feedback saying that the units are performing well and they’re doing exactly what we intend them to be. And we also are getting feedback saying you know what, I wish it would do this or I wish we can communicate differently. Or we’re launching on a pilot in New York right now and they said well we have daytime shift caregivers and evening shift caregivers, so the alerts have to go to one phone during the day and another phone during the evening. These are just things that come up and we’re doing that right now. We have three fulltime software engineers and that’s all they do all day long is figure this stuff out.
Russ: Well Marc I really appreciate it, it sounds like there’s a lot of potential.
Marc: Thank you, really appreciate the time and the opportunity as well.
Russ: You bet. And that wraps up my discussion with Marc Cayle, Founder and COO of OnKöl and this is The BusinessMakers Show.
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