A UK technology start-up focused on supporting the elderly to live more independently in their own homes has received financial backing from the government.
Accelerated by the coronavirus crisis and rising loneliness amongst the elderly, Sentai, a portable smart device using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Voice Technology to monitor and support older people, has received a grant from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency.
Sentai said the Sustainable Innovation Fund will help in bringing the device to market at a time when Age UK estimates that 1.4 million people aged 50 and over in England suffer from loneliness.
Phil Marshman, Sentai’s CEO and founder, said: “We’re delighted to see the Government backing us under the Sustainable Innovation Fund, as it serves to underline how much our product is needed. With winter fast approaching and another national lockdown underway, loneliness is only set to rise further, and we want to be able to ensure our loved ones are monitored and supported when we can’t physically be with them.
“We’re now one step closer to making Sentai accessible to all who need it and incredibly excited at the prospect of being able to offer a viable solution to combatting loneliness, thereby improving quality of life and ensuring peace of mind.”
Thanks to advancements in machine-learning capabilities, Sentai is designed to provide a contextual experience with the user, meaning conversations feel natural rather than robotic or one way. For example, it can detect the mood of a person from their voice and centre responses around that.
Also, equipped with sensors, Sentai monitors movements and can call for help if someone falls, and can remind them to take medication throughout the day as needed.
The idea is to offer a small, discrete, personal task force to deal with the day-to-day care needs of the elderly, whilst keeping them connected to their loved ones and community.
The caregiver can stay connected via a smart app, with daily performance logs and push notifications enabling them to get peace of mind.
Dr Ian Campbell, executive chair of Innovate UK, said: “In these difficult times we have seen the best of British business innovation. The pandemic is not just a health emergency but one that impacts society and the economy.
“Sentai, along with every initiative Innovate UK has supported through this fund, is an important step forward in driving sustainable economic development. Each one is also helping to realise the ambitions of hard-working people.”
Innovate UK is investing up to £191million to fund research and development projects as part of its Sustainable Innovation Fund over the next two years.
To further help get the device into the homes of people who need it, Sentai has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the next stage of its development – the success of which will see its technology brought to mass market.
Sentai has also launched a nationwide campaign to help recognise and support professional and informal carers across the UK.
The #ReachOutAndHelpOut campaign was launched following research, conducted last month, which found that most carers are only occasionally asked about their own wellbeing – leaving them in danger of being forgotten when it comes to mental health.