Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Industry: Senior Care Monitoring and Home Security
Size: Start-up (9 employees)
“Non-intrusive for us is that we respect the human in the process, and then also respect their privacy and the data that’s there.”
– John Robertson
To provide non-intrusive monitoring solutions for exceptional peace of mind.
Monitoring the exception
HomeEXCEPT offers a set of non-intrusive home monitoring sensors that sends alerts to a mobile phone when a problem or unusual activity is detected. Their product, which doesn’t include cameras or listening devices in order to respect privacy, monitors temperature, light and environmental conditions, and combines this with artificial intelligence.
Their sensors – which will be sold to solution providers and resellers, such as home care providers and security companies – will be on the market in September 2018. Headquartered in Halifax, N.S. HomeEXCEPT will launch focusing on sales across North America.
Aging in place
Two years ago, John Robertson, CEO and founder of HomeEXCEPT, became fascinated with the idea of ‘aging in place’ and the challenges facing our senior population and their families. From his research he knew that people were struggling with the lack of care options for loved ones – Nova Scotia alone has over 1,000 people on waiting lists for nursing homes – while worrying about their safety.
“The challenge became can we provide a solution that alleviates some of that worry, but at the same time respects the privacy of their parents? So what we wanted to do was develop a monitoring device that doesn’t have a camera. Because nanny doesn’t want to be on nanny cam and you don’t want to watch nanny on the nanny cam,” says Robertson.
Non-intrusive doesn’t just mean no video or audio devices for Robertson. Making sure they designed a solution that doesn’t compromise personal data was essential. They’ve tackled this by only requiring the absolute minimum amount of information necessary for their product to work: a mobile phone number.
“Non-intrusive for us is that we respect the human in the process, and then also respect their privacy and the data that’s there,” says Robertson.
While HomeEXCEPT helps seniors live safely at home and maintain their independence and dignity, it also gives family members – no matter where they live – peace of mind. Beyond that, home care companies can use the sensor data to understand and optimize a person’s care, and that data can also be used to determine when they might need to go into a care facility.
Partnerships with purpose
HomeEXCEPT’s purpose is their differentiator in a market dominated by big tech firms.
Robertson recognized early on that a solution was needed for people who are increasingly worried about how their private information is used, especially when it comes to personal and home monitoring. “We are one of very few companies that are approaching data in terms of ‘let’s not worry about monetizing the data, let’s let people pay for us to help them use their own data and keep their information private.’”
Their laser focus on being non-intrusive and protecting data privacy has led to significant partnerships with big names such as Microsoft and Panasonic.
Speaking about their partnership with Microsoft, Robertson says it was this focus that got their attention. “They said we heard the word non-intrusive. We’re interested. Redmond Is listening,” he says, referring to Microsoft’s corporate headquarters.
But the value of these partnerships goes beyond bragging rights. Because the high costs of customer acquisition in their industry was beyond HomeEXCEPT’s means as a start-up, Robertson and his team focused on connecting directly with the key technology players – Panasonic for hardware and Microsoft for cloud infrastructure – who already have relationships with Fortune 100 companies in the controls and sensor markets.
Microsoft is working closely with HomeEXCEPT. “They went as far as flying four of their top people here for a week to work with us,” he says. “So we learned a ton from them and they’re working with us to go to market.”
Focusing on diversity
Beyond their non-intrusive monitoring purpose, HomeEXCEPT also has an internal purpose with a commitment to diversity.
“From my perspective there’s a few areas that we really look at from a diversity perspective. Number one is youth. Number two are immigrants. And then number three are women,” says Robertson. “I think we’ve got a very diverse group and that’s the way it will continue going forward.”
Of the nine employees, seven are under 25 years old, four are newcomers to Canada and two are women. Embracing diversity as part of their purpose has benefited HomeEXCEPT by helping them find the talent they need.
Their youngest employee is only 19 years old. “We hired him on a National Research Council grant for three months as an intern and then kept him because he just blew our socks off.”
HomeEXCEPT also looks for employees who share their values and make business decisions through the lens of non-intrusive monitoring. “I’ll throw an idea on the table and then the first thing that they’ll say is ‘Is that getting too intrusive? Have we crossed the line there?’ There was a huge debate when we decided to add in the sound sensor,” says Robertson. “Technically any sound sensor is a microphone, but there’s a difference between measuring decibel levels and listening to actual conversation. But the team had to be convinced of that.”