When is a radio not a radio? When it tells people how you’re feeling

BuddyIt looks like a radio. (A rather nice one.) It plays radio stations. But this is not just a radio, this is a Buddy radio – the latest idea in social networking, designed to connect people who are frail and vulnerable to those who care about them.

I heard about Buddy from the dynamic Adil Abrar of Sidekick Studios, its designers. Buddy is still at an early stage of development (four months ago, it was only a thought in Adil’s mind) so there are still issues to be resolved, but you can see its potential.

There’s already quite a lot of technology on offer to monitor people’s health and alert carers and nurses to trouble. Unfortunately, most of it suffers from various problems:

  • It’s often hideous and faintly embarrassing to have in the home
  • It’s stigmatising: it implies that you’re on the verge of collapsing, because that’s all it cares about: Are you still on your feet?
  • There’s a suspicion it’s a substitute for human contact. Sold as a way of caring for your vulnerable old person, it’s actually a way of ignoring your vulnerable old person until they actually fall down, possibly dead, and you get an alarm signal. (I’m sure telehealth isn’t used like that by everyone, but if someone suggested getting one of these devices for me, that would be my first thought; they’re doing this so they don’t have to call in any more). Continue reading