LAS VEGAS (TheStreet) -- In a world where the audience doesn't always want to keep up with technology, 10 tech startups dared to pitch smartphone apps, online tools and personal gadgets to a mostly senior-citizen crowd on Friday for AARP's Life@50+ Expo.
The contenders got five minutes to pitch investors and venture capitalists in the morning. In the afternoon, the second annual Health Innovation @50+LivePitch session welcomed any AARP member who wandered in to sit, listen and even vote. There were two categories for winners -- one chosen by investors, the other by the seniors. LabDoor, which assigns letter grades to drugstore products by simply scanning the UPC with a smartphone camera, won both the judges round and the consumer vote.
Of course, the event's deeper purpose was to encourage new answers to old problems for people over 50, said Jody Holtzman, AARP's senior vice president of Thought Leadership. With recent research like one report from Pew Research Center that only 11% of those over 65 have a smartphone, AARP has a duty to make sure seniors are educated about technology and appropriate products are being made.
"It's not just accepting whatever their (startups) claims are," Holtzman said. "The judges have eight minutes to probe, respond and ask questions and make recommendations. At the same time, it's a supportive environment with judges saying 'Here's what you need to do.' We're trying to encourage these entrepreneurs. We don't want to stop them before they have gotten some traction."
During the five minute pitch to consumers, the audience could ask questions. Last year, contestant QMedic showed off a personal emergency system in the form of a bulky watch. "And this woman in the audience said, 'If you want me to wear that, you'd better glam it up.' Something as basic as that. Those entrepreneurs are so focused on making sure it works that the human factor isn't as obvious. Of course, as soon as the woman said that, it was like, 'Oh, of course,'" Holtzman said.
(QMedic apparently heeded the advice. On its site, it is touting a more delicate version in pink and slate that is "coming soon.")
This year's LivePitch contest attracted 127 companies. Ten finalists were selected. While not everyone took home a special AARP LivePitch trophy, all offered a glimpse of the latest in health technology for not just senior citizens, but all ages.
Smart pill bottle:
New York-based AdhereTech built cellphone technology into a pill bottle to help remind people to take their medicine. It'll call, email or text users if medicine wasn't taken on time. It also glows blue when it's time and flashes red when the dosage is missed. Those real-time reminders increases adherence that the patient is correctly following medical advice between 60% and 90%, says the company.
Smart Pill Bottle -- This patented pill bottle from AdhereTech will text or call phones if a dosage is missed. It also glows blue when it's time and flashes red when the dosage is missed.
Photo Courtesy of AdhereTech
Medical bill detective:
Medical bills are a bureaucratic bore and for the untrained, it's easy to overlook errors, overcharges and other billing issues. A service from Portland, Ore.-based CoPatient uses automation, analytics and consumer feedback to analyze bills for free -- you can even snap a photo of the bill with a smartphone camera. For a fee, CoPatient will make sure your benefits were applied correctly, track savings and negotiate claims.
Exercise and health motivators:
Home Team Therapy uses Xbox's Kinect and instructional videos to help patients get the physical therapy they need without leaving home. Another startup, Wello, connects users with personal trainers in real-time via video conferencing so the user can exercise at home. LifeVest pays you to get healthy but you have to start by putting your own money down and getting sponsors. If you exercise, eat right and attain your goals, you get the cash people invested in you.
Smartphone turned hearing aid:
Instead of spending thousands on a hearing aid that constantly needs adjusting, SoundFest in Needham, Mass., put the technology into a more affordable mobile app and wireless ear piece. The smartphone, with its built-in powerful audio processor, acts like a microphone piping conversations back to the ear piece. Just hold the smartphone in the middle of a crowd's conversation so it's closer to the speakers. The RealClarity app offers listening profiles adjustable for various listening situations.
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A Smarter Sole:
Veristride is working on a way to let your own feet tell you how to improve walking abnormalities. The company puts gyroscopes, accelerometers and force sensors into shoe insoles. This wellness insole tracks all movement and sends details to a smartphone app. The app evaluates movement and offers instant feedback and tips to correct walking.
Drugstore product report cards:
If you have a hard time picking which over-the-counter medicine or other drugstore product is best, LabDoor makes the process easy as A-B-C. The company reviews all products, tests for advertising and safety claims and gives the product a grade of A to F. Consumers can scan a product's UPC and get an immediate grade to help make the buying decision smarter.
Unobtrusive personal monitor:
To keep tabs on a senior parent living alone, the idea of installing webcams is creepy. Lively offers small motion sensors that attach to regularly used objects like pill boxes, the fridge and doors. It senses movement and patterns and when something is not right, it'll alert interested parties. Concerned family members can download a mobile app to get instant updates - smiley and frowny faces -- about whether everything is normal.
Lively communicator -- Lively teamed sensors with communication to inform family and medical care if something is amiss. The sensors are attached to everyday objects, like pill bottles, the refrigerator and doors and track motion in the house.
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Instead of talking around an adult living in a senior living community or nursing facility, Caremerge's app aims to increases communication between the senior adult and friends, family members and nursing staff. The app helps everyone manage schedules, activities and health updates.
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Tamara Chuang is an outside contributor to TheStreet. Her opinions are her own.