by Mike Lee, Staff Writer
Between Facebook timelines, Twitter feeds and Instagram posts there’s a million ways for people to stay “connected” in this busy world.
But not everyone can keep up with the latest communication fad.
And even if you have mastered your Facebook page that doesn’t mean your kids or your grandkids haven’t moved on to something else.
That was the problem that Keith Kocho, founder and CEO of bloom decided to tackle.
With a diabetic father in Ontario who suffered a stroke alone at home, Kocho understands better than most the sheer practical importance of staying in touch.
But he wanted something more than just a way to monitor his dad’s health.
“Between us, my father and I had lots of technology — computers, tablets, smartphones, social networks, and video conferencing apps. But when I wanted to connect him with the kids, there were challenges,” Kocho said. “Then it struck me that the right approach was to start from scratch and build something integrated and intuitive with a splash of humanity.
Doing his research, Kocho determined the market was saturated with devices that were designed to monitor someone’s physical health or safety in the home. But there wasn’t anything that made it effortless to stay in touch with loved ones.
The bloom product has three distinct yet integrated components: the bloomview display, the bloomband wearable, and a bloomapp available for iOS and Android. Family members share photos and videos through the bloomapp that appear on the bloomview, a stylish, portable display that looks at home in the kitchen or living room. By wearing the bloomband and approaching the bloomview, grandparents automatically trigger those shared moments to appear on the display.
If something piques their interest, they can then initiate video calls with family members right from the bloomview. During these video calls, bloom helps keep conversations rich and current by showing the most recent shared images, ensuring families always have something to talk about.
Heritage Point Senior Living Services Executive Director Melva Noakes is a National Certified Dementia Care Manager who applauds technology like bloom.
“I think this is fantastic for our seniors and their families,” said Noakes, who oversees the Oklahoma City community that specializes in Alzheimer’s and memory care services. “We as families live a busy schedule and this would make us feel a vital part of our seniors’ life.”
Bloom also removes technical barriers to communication, never asking about confusing updates or login credentials. The bloomview makes use of customers’ home Wi-Fi, so users can just plug it in and instantly begin viewing content shared by family members.
“It’s a powerful, but elegant piece of technology in their homes,” Kocho said. “The proactive part is if you’re talking to someone on a regular basis and sharing with them you’re in a much better position to know if they are having health or social issues.
“So it’s a better model than putting a panic button on them and waiting for them to fall down.”
Backed by Google Ventures and FKA, bloom connects families across generations and geographies.
“bloom is a great example of the type of high tech, high touch technology that has huge potential to impact the quality of life of older adults and their families,” said Katie Fike, PhD Gerontologist and co-founder of Aging 2.0. “The contextual awareness and ultra simple interface facilitates family communication in a way that feels magical and seamless instead of frustrating and overtly technical.”
The bloomband wearable also includes additional health and safety features, like activity tracking and emergency support. It’s a wearable that enriches all aspects of a user’s everyday life — from emotional to physical wellness.
Noakes said as long as the technology barrier is low then the results can be amazing for all involved. “It allows both family and seniors to see the things as they happen,” Noakes said. “It also helps with depression and the quality of life for our seniors. We have even found that the resident feels a burst of excitement when talking about his family which enhances their memory and communication.”
Kocho is happy with the outcome and is now taking orders for holiday season delivery.
“We’re looking to bring families closer together and provide them with peace of mind knowing their loved ones are safe, easy to reach, and not missing out on memorable moments,” Kocho said.