Already in millions of homes across the United States through its cable and internet services, telecommunications giant Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) is developing a new in-home health monitoring device capable of detecting falls — and potentially preventing hospital readmissions.
While details are scarce at this point, the device is purposefully built with at-home health care in mind, according to information from Comcast shared with Home Health Care News. The primary focus on health care and aging in place would differentiate Comcast’s in-home monitoring device from existing technology such as Amazon Echo and Google Home.
Additionally, Comcast’s device would predominantly be used in conjunction with health care provider partners. Amazon Echo and Google Home, in contrast, are largely consumer-driven.
Comcast aims to begin pilot-testing its device later this year, targeting seniors and at-risk individuals.
Compared to other major companies with similar ambitions, Comcast would likely have a significant advantage in gaining a home health foothold due to its existing infrastructure and connectivity. Comcast is currently the largest cable company in the U.S., with more than 26.2 million internet customers and 22.3 million video customers.
Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center is among the health care organizations Comcast is actively in talks with, according to CNBC, which first broke the in-home monitoring device news on Tuesday. Specifically, those talks are rumored to revolve around preventing hospital readmissions following discharge.
Comcast’s team building the in-home device works under Sumit Nagpal, the company’s senior vice president and general manager of health innovation, CNBC reported, citing two people with direct knowledge of the operations. Nagpal previously served as managing director for consulting firm Accenture and as a board member for HIMSS, a nonprofit health care technology organization.
Besides readmissions capabilities, Comcast’s in-home monitoring device is also rumored to include fall detection features.
Falling is the fifth-leading cause of death among seniors. More than 20,000 seniors die each year due to fall injuries, a number that could increase to more than 40,000 by 2020, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) statistics.
Apple is also among the non-health care companies exploring fall detection. Its latest smartwatch, for example, boasts a fall-detection feature that can reliably identify when hard falls take place while also coordinating alerts to emergency services. Other fall-detection innovators include Totemic, which uses wireless signals to detect falls.
Comcast’s device won’t be able to do things like search the web or turn lights on and off, according to CNBC. However, it will come with a voice personality like Alexa and be able to make emergency phone calls when necessary.
Comcast already offers home security services, so it has experience with hardware in the home meant to capture motion and movement. Additionally, the company’s voice remote for its Xfinity cable platform has helped Comcast in recognizing user voice commands.