Bee Concepts CEO and founder Knut Ruud explains how the company’s innovative solutions are facilitating healthy, active lifestyles for the ageing population.
Today, we live longer than earlier generations, and our elderly lives also stretch across an increasing number of years. The ageing population can often be seen as a problem instead of an opportunity. The difference in the two perspectives is strongly connected to our health. People living longer in good health are possible resources, while people living longer in bad health will demand more resources from society. It is important to take responsibility for our own health, especially in our later years.
Bee Concepts is a Norwegian company who is working on solutions for elderly people. Their vision is ‘a good life longer’. They are working towards this vision by enabling people to facilitate healthy ageing and, when necessary, co-ordinate their care.
What makes a good life?
They started out with central questions about what makes a good life.
“Talking to many people in all ages and reading research papers on the topic, we concluded on some essential factors we wanted to target: safety, activity, and a social life,” says the CEO and founder, Knut Ruud.
“We are all different and there are other factors that will influence your life as well, but Bee Concepts see these factors as essential and we see a great potential in having a positive impact on them.”
Safety is a fundamental part of our quality of life, and the natural factor to start addressing. It is challenging because ageing in its self is an increased risk for a range of diseases and conditions, and we often experience big changes in our lives like retiring from work or death of friends and partners.
Our activity level has a big impact on our health. A challenge is often that our activity level decreases with age. Feeling unsafe doing what we did before can be one reason. For the ageing population, it is very important to stay active. This applies for both our physical and mental health.
Humans are social beings and we need a social life throughout our whole lifetime. With the life transitions normally following old age, our social life changes as well. Our needs, however, stay the same.
These three factors all affect each other, and they all play key roles in our health. So how is Bee Concepts approaching safety, activity and social life for a good life longer?
Their very first solution gives elderly people living in their own home a stronger feeling of safety. It also reduces the uncertainty for their family and loved ones. Using sensor technology to track motion and activity in the user’s home, Bee Concepts learns the normal pattern for the user. If something significant deviates from this pattern, a warning is sent to a list of people chosen by the user.
“The changes in behaviour may be big, like no motion in the home at 10am, when the user normally gets up at 8am every morning. It could also be gradual change over time, where the total activity goes down to a level that triggers a warning. The user can also send an acute warning by pressing an alarm button on their wrist,” says Knut.
The safety of being able to warn actively with the alarm button and passively through the analysis detecting change in activity is important. The solution will be able to detect significant but slowly evolving changes and make the user or their family aware. The user controls who has access to their status and notifications through the app. With access, the user’s family can check the live status in the app and receive push messages from the app.
Users who need a little extra help with some daily tasks can use the app to co-ordinate and communicate with their family and service provider. They can also share pictures and good memories with the family.
Bee Concepts is offering their platform to users via a monthly fee. Basic sensors are included in the subscription ‘Bee safety’. For additional sensors the company will offer different solutions based on the user’s needs.
“The advantage of not developing hardware and sensors is that we can offer a platform supporting a wide range of technologies and suppliers. If the quality of the sensor is good enough and the data can be sent to the personal cloud, the sensor can be implemented in the solution,” says Knut.
Further developing the solution will build on the same logic. They will launch features for safety outside the home and include data about the user’s health. Bee Concepts will learn the normal pattern and send warnings when a change is detected. This will make the safety features more complete and give very good insight to the user about their health. The analysis will not give diagnoses, but it will tell you when the risk of disease or accidents increases. That way you or your family can take action earlier.
One of the Bee Concepts team members has personal experience from a situation where the solution would have been of great value.
“His mother had blood clots in both her lungs and neither her nor her children noticed anything specific until she got very ill. Luckily, it turned out fine, but looking back at the situation they concluded that her health had gradually gone worse. It was too small changes for them to take any action, but our system would have caught it earlier and recommended them to check up on it.”
When creating the feeling of safety in and outside the home we have an important foundation to build on when advocating for more activity and maintaining a social life.
“Activity for us is both physical and mental. We need to work out on a level that is adapted to our abilities and interests. At the same time, we must keep challenging ourselves to keep the brain active,” says Knut.
“Bee Concepts will focus on motivating for activity. People are different with different interests. If you like going to the gym, that is great and the solution will set goals to motivate you in that setting. Activity can also be the most daily of tasks. Goal of the day may be everything from 30 minutes of cleaning to walking down the hall and back.”
Learning something new is a great way to activate both the mind and the body. It can be done on your own, but the platform will facilitate for organising local activities and courses where people can meet based on interests and acquaintances. A lot of activities like this already exist but will benefit from having a platform to co-ordinate on. As a user, you will have the benefit of getting suggestions of activities based on your interests.
A very rewarding way of motivating yourself and socialising is by helping others. It could be family, friends or someone who simply needs a helping hand. Bee Concepts see this as a big goal for the solution. They call it a win-win situation. When you receive help, it is a pretty obvious win. However, in a situation like this there are more winners. A normal feeling when retiring from work is that we start to feel less useful. The perspective of the ageing population as a burden kicks in. When we help others with small or big tasks, we are useful and feel useful. Society will also be a winner.
Go to market
Bee Concepts is developing with the user in focus. What value the user and their family will get from a feature is always the question. This does not mean that providers of elderly care will not get value from the solution.
“It simply means that we look at the users’ need first. A function with a positive impact for the user will in many cases have positive synergies for service providers as well. Easy access to quality-checked service providers is such a feature.”
With a user approach, Bee Concepts was not sure if the service providers would see the same value as they do. However, after a few months of presenting and talking to different providers in homecare, they see a big interest. Several contracts have been signed, and it is turning out to be an important part of the company’s go-to-market plan.
“Working towards the same segment, with the same goals, but a different angle of approach, makes us natural partners,” says Ruud.
With partners in the big cities and most of the highest populated areas of Norway, they now have a great basis to build on as they are finishing the running pilot project.
With a successful pilot phase coming to an end and the number of Norwegian customers increasing, Bee Concepts are looking at new markets in Europe. They are interested in finding partners within the care field with an interest in technology to make the user’s life better.
Please note, this article will appear in issue 9 of Health Europa Quarterly, which will be available to read in April 2019.