AI, elderly care and innovation - Business Works
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AI, elderly care and innovation

by Phil Marshman, CEO, Sentai My inspiration was to create a new product that would help the elderly live more independently for longer in their own homes, while providing support for their remote caregivers. It came from not being able to find a suitable remote-care solution for my own 87-year-old father when I wasn't physically able to check on him during the COVID-19 lockdown, says Phil Marshman, CEO of Sentai.

I have always found getting the right product to be the easy part, as I am always inventing solutions for problems. The key challenge is around the execution of the idea. Settling on the right amount of features to get something out to market early enough to validate with real customers is important, but not an easy thing to get right.

I have a poster on my wall that says, "Stay focused, stay humble, always hustle". These words are so true when it comes to starting up a business. It is too easy to get distracted from your original goals and chase off in another direction. Remaining laser-focused and saying no frequently to distractions is key for me. I always recognise that there's a learning point in every experience, good or bad. Humility allows us to take these experiences and grow, trying not to make the same mistakes twice. To me, hustle is the number one thing between normal / mediocre and success. Questioning why things take so long and pulling in favours to make things happen is vital in this world where distance barriers no longer exist and where no idea is truly original.

there's a learning point in every experience

Due to COVID-19, this is my first business that is entirely remote. This has its own challenges, especially around my fixation for scribbling on whiteboards! However, good people adapt to new challenges and team Sentai are excellent at working remotely using Zoom and Teams to interact. We have a small, but very experienced team. Without them, Sentai would not have made the rapid progress we are making.

Although it is a cliché, finding the right team is so important - and not just people that can do a job function. You need to find people that are best in class, who share the same beliefs and buy into the vision of what the company is setting out to be. It is important to recognise that mistakes will happen in this area. If someone turns out not to be correct, it is important that you address this quickly, as this can affect the whole company.

Money is always a balancing act with start-ups. Do you bootstrap, do you look for early investment? Are you prepared to stop working on the product and company to find the right amount of investment? Finding money is a full-time job. We have chosen to bootstrap for as long as possible, but I recognise that this doesn't suit every business.

So, with the concept established, development of the product has now been accelerated by the corona virus crisis and we surveyed the British public to help understand changes in care behaviour as a result of the pandemic.

We carried out a study of 1500 UK adults in July 2020. It which highlighted the pressures of lockdown on those who care for someone vulnerable or elderly and how self-isolation has caused worry around loved ones' wellbeing.

Sentai AI helping with the care of older people

On average, relatives spent more than 14 hours a week caring for their elderly loved ones during the COVID-19 lockdown, with most of that time spent checking-in to ensure care needs are being met and that isolation isn't causing loneliness.

45% of respondents were 'very concerned' as to whether their family member was keeping on top of medication and food. While 68% believed it was important for their elderly relative to exercise in order to maintain health and well-being during lockdown.

Given what's happened in the last few months, the results are somewhat unsurprising. People are spending a lot of time caring for elderly family members, with lockdown heightening their concerns around their loved ones' well-being. This is compounded by the risk of corona virus infection restricting the opportunity for visits and thereby increasing the chances of loneliness through isolation.

Our findings have highlighted clear concerns and we hope Sentai can provide a solution to these worries. It's been developed to offer a contextual experience where conversations with the user will feel human, with machine-learning algorithms allowing it to build bespoke relationships to help alleviate loneliness. We want both the caregiver and user to feel constantly connected, bringing peace of mind to all.

Furthermore, within its results, the survey found that 68% of relatives already have some sort of smart device speaker in place - something that serves to highlight how smart technology is becoming more commonplace. The study also suggested that demand for a remote monitor of relatives' welfare is high, with 62% of respondents saying that they would acquire one if it was on the market.

The demand is clearly there, so the next stage is to help put Sentai in the homes of elderly people across the UK to help monitor and support them. The aim being is to bring peace of mind to relatives who can't always be present and add an extra layer of safety in the process. We are launching a crowdfunding initiative via Kickstarter whereby members of the public will be able to pledge to back Sentai in order to get the product to those who really need it.

For more information, please visit Sentai at:

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