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Our Favourite Tech
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The team behind
is on a mission to revolutionise healthcare by using the humble TV set to help cure loneliness – a serious issue affecting a large proportion of Britain’s aging population.
Three million elderly people in the UK spend at least one week alone between visits by their loved ones, and even more travel long hours for basic healthcare. SpeakSet, the TV plug-in device developed by Ewan Marshall and his partners, could change all that. Delivering user-friendly video chat, it’s an easy and cost-effective remedy for isolation which can improve people’s emotional and physical wellbeing.
We spoke to CEO Ewan Marshall to find out more.
What is SpeakSet and how is it changing the lives of elderly people?
SpeakSet is a very simple video-calling device specifically designed for older people, so they can easily use it with their TV to connect with their doctor, friends and family. It has the potential to completely change the way healthcare works, as people no longer need to travel for miles to see their GP or consultant – they can attend an examination while sitting in their armchair in front of their TV.
The device itself is an unassuming set-top box that plugs into a TV set via a Scart cable, turning it into an instant video-calling system. It comes with an easy-to-use remote control and a webcam. We also provide a highly secure connection in order to safeguard patients’ data.
What inspired you to create SpeakSet and how did the idea evolve into a product?
About 18 months ago my business partners and I realised how little technological innovation went into improving the lives of people over 65 – so we started thinking about products that could be of value to them.
We spent about five months talking to hundreds of over 65s, asking them about their lives, challenges and problems. We found that every single issue came back to – in one way or another – isolation and lack of communication. So we decided to build a product that would break down these barriers. Once we had the idea, we built a number of prototypes, tested them, and took feedback on board. Thanks to these conversations, we learned a lot about the needs of older people and tailored our product to meet them.
How do you see SpeakSet revolutionising healthcare?
We’ve been working with a number of NHS trusts and they’ve responded really well to SpeakSet. They’ve seen it as a very sensible solution. We know that 90 percent of consultations are face-to-face chats and doctors make many of their decisions by looking at their patient, so it’s easy to see how it can make a difference.
From post-operation checks to the treatment of long-term conditions – where consultants regularly monitor medication – SpeakSet has worked really well for healthcare practitioners, saving them huge amounts of money. At the same time, patients have received quality care. In addition, regular video chats with friends and family have improved their lives.
What is the roadmap for the next few years?
We know that customers like our product – it’s time to scale up and get more people on board. Our main focus is on the UK market at the moment but we’re also planning to take SpeakSet to Europe. In terms of product development, we want to stay focused on keeping SpeakSet super simple. We will only add new features if we find people want and absolutely need them.
The Queen made her first SpeakSet call recently. Is she among the early adopters?
Not quite. But she invited us, among other companies, to attend the first ever tech reception at Buckingham Palace in June. The Queen was so kind to use SpeakSet to chat to one of our users who had just come out of a hip operation. We got her ‘unofficial’ royal seal of approval, which is a welcome endorsement for a product that can help so many older people across Britain.
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