In July, Tammy Barkley got her 87-year-old mother a new watch.
But the gift was meant to do more than keep time and look nice on her mother’s wrist; incorporating GPS and two-way communication via AT&T, it’s meant to help keep track of a victim of dementia and potentially save her life.
“I”m an only child and I live in Texas; my mom lives in Oregon and refuses to move,” said Barkley, who is co-owner with her husband of Pflugerville’s Rise Martial Arts. “There were just not a whole lot of options.
Barkley’s mother Charlotte, who lives in Medford, Oregon, wears the watch, made by Austin’s Clairvoyant Networks, every day. It keeps track of her location, allowing Barkley to see if her mother has left her home. If she were to fall or get lost, it allows for Barkley or her mother to communicate directly through the watch.
“She’s talking to me rather than pushing a button and getting a stranger,” Barkley said. “I would never be able to keep this much watch on her from Texas under normal circumstances. It’s not like she has a cell phone. She doesn’t have a computer. She doesn’t even want to think about it, but the watch, she’ll wear.”
Barkley had a friend at the company who helped her sign up to participate as a beta tester for the watch, dubbed Theora Connect, and the app that connects with it, Theora Link.
They’re part of an ecosystem of eldercare products that have been quietly developed in Austin since 2015 and are starting to debut from the company, which changed its name from Theoracare to Clairvoyant earlier this year shortly after coming out of stealth mode.
The company is led by Stephen Popovich, a president and CEO who has been working in data communications for more than 30 years at various companies including Inside Out Networks and Digi International.
Popovich says the challenges of monitoring a member of his own family who was suffering from Alzheimer’s inspired the company. “I had no idea how big the problem was,” Popovich said. “Fifteen million people are family caregivers. You very likely know somebody either directly or indirectly affected by some kind of dementia.”
The company developed a smart-watch product with minimal controls that is capable of two-way communication as a speaker phone with technology provided by AT&T, that can be set to alert family members when someone goes out of a designated geographic zone, and which includes its own GPS technology.
It is selling the device for $197 plus cellular fees on its website and has ambitious plans for a whole suite of products around the concept of “aging in place” that has become popular as technology companies develop gadgets for the Boomer generation that allow them to live independently longer. It could grow to a $30 billion market over the next few years, according to Aging in Place Technology Watch.
For Clairvoyant, that includes sensors for the home and bed, wearables and cloud services, which could potentially also be used in retirement communities.
While it’s still early in the company’s rollout of products, it has already earned an award: in July, Caregiver.com gave the company a Caregiver Friendly Product Award for 2018.
Barkley said that she’s been happy overall with the Connect watch, which she checks several times a day. “They’re constantly working on fixing and fine-tuning things,” she said. It has also had an unexpected side benefit: now that she sees when her mother is out of her home with friends or a half-day caregiver, she can ask about it later.
“She doesn’t really remember she went out shopping with her sister,” Barkley said, “but if I ask her, it sparks her memory. I think it’s also been helpful in that way.”