Google Nest is providing 100,000 Google Home Minis to help people living with paralysis retain their independence

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Google Nest will provide 100,000 Google Home Minis to aid people with paralysis. The aim of the partnership is to provide free Google Home Minis to people with paralysis to help improve their independence at home.

US Smart Speakers' Meteroric Growth to Slow as Devices Move Mainstream

The Google Home Mini is a Google Assistant smart speaker that serves as a connected home hub that enables users to perform a host of routine tasks using only their voice, so long as it's paired with other smart devices - which are not offered through this partnership. For example, an individual could use their voice to adjust the thermostat or activate a home camera system to show them who is at the door.

Here's what it means: Google is looking to build out the healthcare applications of its smart speaker tech in a space that's largely been dominated by Amazon's Alexa.Advertisement

  • Google is making moves to board a voice assistant wave that's set to roll through healthcare. Twenty-four percent of people reported using voice search to ask a health-related question in the six months prior to a January 2018 Zion & Zion survey. And while one of the most common health applications for voice assistants continues to be searching for basic health information, whether through web searches or specially developed skills, experiments and pilot programs are underway to push the tech into new areas of care: Just last year, the Google Assistant Investment Program - an early stage voice assistant incubator - funneled money into Aiva Health, a voice-powered healthcare assistant for seniors. Aiva's platform looks to give care providers a way to easily communicate with elderly patients, track health metrics, and process care-related inquiries.
  • But the company faces serious competition from Amazon's Alexa, which has an early foothold in the space. Despite Google's investments in voice assistant tech for healthcare and its favorable voice recognition record compared with its rivals, Amazon's Alexa remains the clear leader in the space. Critically, Amazon has provided back-end development structures to allow for the development of HIPAA-compliant skills - a feature Google Assistant currently lacks. Even before Alexa achieved HIPAA compliance, the voice assistant enjoyed several prominent healthcare partnerships, including a recent pilot program at Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai: The program saw 100 hospital roomsoutfitted with Alexa devices, giving patients the ability to control in-room entertainment with their voices and as ask caregivers for assistance; requests are then routed to the appropriate caregiver, who is notified via mobile app based on the kind of request being made.
The bigger picture: Smart device vendors could tap a growing senior market through friends and family who are looking to help their elderly loved ones retain independence and reduce the burdensome costs of long-term care.

The average cost for a month of at-home senior care is over $4,000 - but smart speakers may be able to save families money with some tech-assisted peace of mind. Of elderly people who require daily at-home senior care, 65% rely exclusively on friends and family to provide the care they need.

This is in part due to the high cost of long-term care, which averages over $4,000 a month in the US, according to a 2017 Genworth study, while the average cost for a year in a nursing home ranges between $89,000 and $100,000. And a growing senior population means the cost of care is likely to swell: The nation's elderly population is set to nearly double from 49 million in 2018 to 95 million in 2060. But the fact that only 7% of seniors today currently own a smart speaker illustrates the huge untapped opportunity for device makers to find success.

It's possible that smart home devices can fill an intermediary gap for individuals with limited mobility or for seniors living with less severe health ailments to remain living independently for longer, while saving them and their loved ones time and money.

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