Redgear | Healthy Ageing Case Studies
Between 2020 and 2050, it is expected that the number of people living in the UK over the age of 60 will double. This rising ageing population is already placing unprecedented pressure on the care system.
With the help of funding from the Healthy Ageing Challenge, Redgear Solutions is proving that digital technology can transform the way we look after older people.
The big idea
Tech start-up, Redgear Solutions has harnessed the power of the ‘Internet of Things’ to create a multisensor device that helps families of older people keep their loved ones safe and living as independently as possible.
RGS Care is the only wireless hub that features 11 sensors which continuously monitor everything from movement to sleeping patterns to air quality. The device sends the data to a personalised dashboard to help carers – and the individual’s family – make better decisions about the kind of support someone needs.
The back story
RGS Care was developed by two entrepreneurs: David Bodenstein and Dan Stepney. David was already developing sensor technology for the maritime industry when a relative was left stranded for two days after an accident at home. He spotted an opportunity to create a device that could help monitor, protect and improve the wellbeing of older and vulnerable people.
Having developed and tested a prototype with his relative, David and Dan approached the ExtraCare Charitable Trust, in 2019, who agreed to trial the device with some of its residents.
But it was when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020 that Dan and David realised just how vital their technology could be. Using the RGS Care device, carers could continue to assist vulnerable people while minimising potential contact exposure. But to do this, they needed to scale up the idea rapidly.
The pandemic lit a fire under the care industry. We’re proving that technology can really help carers do their jobs more effectively and keep more people living as independently as possible.
Impact of Challenge funding
Redgear Solutions ramp up production from 20 to 120 devices meaning they could equip Extra Care with enough devices to serve each of their 21 independent living villages. Typically, four devices are placed in one house. Being completely mobile, the devices can be moved easily from resident to resident.
Unlike anything else on the market, the devices are completely unobtrusive. They require no wires or WiFi since they run on an ultra narrow band radio modulation called Sigfox, designed to let low-power objects, such as a smartwatch or sensor, communicate wirelessly.
Personalised dashboard data allows carers to understand what’s really happening in the home, spot risk factors and prioritise care strategies. “It can tell you things that residents might not be able to tell you themselves,” says Dan. “For example, if a person is suddenly waking in the middle of the night, we can build a picture of the factors that might be causing that.”
The devices also help reduce investigation times by providing otherwise hard to collect information. During the lockdown, this meant issues could be quickly identified, discussed by telephone and an action plan agreed.
Very often, the devices show a simple explanation for changes in behaviour, Dan explains. “For example, if someone with dementia is suddenly wearing too many clothes or not enough without explanation, it can look like a deterioration. Our device can help a family and carers decide whether more help is needed or not.” The device also has an automated alert button, which can be programmed to report an emergency or even confirm a resident is fine, meaning time and resources are better used.
All this data means Redgear has now developed a detailed picture of what a healthy environment looks like in terms of issues like air quality and temperature. This picture helps carers make more informed decisions about how to keep residents safe.
And feedback suggests the devices are doing their job. “The devices have helped so much,” says one carer. “Knowing that a resident is up throughout the night helps the carers as they can encourage this lady to rest, it also explains why she is less understanding of instructions by the afternoon.”
Redgear is looking at ways to integrate artificial intelligence into the system to help speed up and automate the data analysis. “The Innovate UK grant has already helped us expand significantly,” Dan says. “The pandemic lit a fire under the care industry. We’re proving that technology can really help carers do their jobs more effectively and keep more people living as independently as possible.”
This case study is one of a series shining a spotlight on projects that were awarded Covid Fast Response grants and supported by the UKRI’s Healthy Ageing Challenge. The projects all aim to enhance the lives of older people during the pandemic, and beyond.