The inspiration for the business venture was founder Helen Dempster’s own concerns about the care provided to her grandfather during the 14 years her family looked after him at home. He had Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s and brain cancer, and the family worried about care providers not turning up on time or fully appreciating his needs, and the risk of something happening to him between visits. Installing cameras felt too intrusive not to mention impractical, as someone would have to monitor them.
Helen’s vision was to create an app linked to smart sensors in the home. The AI-enabled software would keep track of the vulnerable family member, learn their routines and how they varied across the days of the week, so that it could accurately detect and alert carers if something seemed amiss. Professional caregivers signing up to the system would be required to log the kind of details families wanted to hear about every visit, and indicate that they had read and understood details of the individuals’ needs, interests and preferences before being able to proceed with a visit. All of this would offer families invaluable reassurance and transparency about the care they were providing, and become a service differentiator for care service providers.
Coming from a background in management accountancy and customer care, Helen knew what she wanted to achieve but lacked the IT knowledge to translate this into a workable product. Together with Tim Payne, who helped co-found the new venture bringing considerable knowledge and experience of the software industry and digital technologies, she set up a meeting with bespoke development company DCSL GuideSmiths – a company already known to them.
“I walked into their offices with reams of paper and pictures of what I wanted,” she says. “DCSL GuideSmiths were very responsive and incredibly helpful. They provided us with a sounding board for my ideas, and constructive advice and feedback about what was possible and how best to achieve it.”
Among the considerations were how best to design and architect the software to exploit the latest technologies, including IoT (the Internet of Things), artificial intelligence/machine learning, and potentially in future virtual reality. The application needed to be flexible, highly secure, scalable to very high numbers of users, and be usable by anyone. This meant allowing for different devices (Android, Apple), and having the scope to be translated into different languages: even at this early stage, Helen and Tim felt the solution would have large global appeal.
I walked into their offices with reams of paper and pictures of what I wanted, DCSL GuideSmiths were very responsive and incredibly helpful. They provided us with a sounding board for my ideas, and constructive advice and feedback about what was possible and how best to achieve it.
DCSL GuideSmiths, which specialises in realising companies’ digital and mobile ambitions using the latest software technologies and development techniques, created a usable web solution and mobile app in under 10 weeks. “It was incredible,” Helen says. “DCSL GuideSmiths has experience of developing healthcare apps, which helped set the direction. That and their agile approach to development meant we could quickly see something and refine it to get to exactly what we wanted, working in two-weekly sprints.”
The Karantis360 app, which supports Android and iOS devices, is based on the IBM Watson AI-based analytics platform and hosted in IBM’s secure cloud. When professional caregivers log visits and provide information about the client’s current mood and state of wellbeing, they upload a photograph to support this: the AI-enabled app ‘reads’ this to detect whether the client is actually smiling. The app was built using the cross-platform Xamarin framework, alongside .NET Core for the business logic and web API, all coded with C#.
Between visits, the app monitors signals from four different types of IoT sensor. These tiny devices monitor humidity readings (has the kettle has boiled recently, is the oven on), doors opening and closing (has the individual gone out and not returned), movement in main areas, and bed/chair use. If there are signs of anything untoward, carers are automatically alerted.
‘Taught’ about the person’s general habits by clients’ families initially, IBM Watson’s machine-learning techniques will then register and adapt to natural variations in routine, for example the different times clients use the kettle or the bathroom depending on the TV schedule across the week. “If they usually watch Coronation Street and don’t boil the kettle at 7.20pm on a Wednesday, it could be an early indication that something is wrong,” Helen explains. “On another day that might not be a concern because their routine is different.”
After a successful release to early adopters in the UK and plenty of enthusiastic feedback, Karantis360 is now live on the IBM cloud where it is attracting the attention of families and care providers around the world. Hosting the software in the IBM cloud means the application has built-in scalability, as well as watertight security to protect sensitive client data.
Professional care firms are Karantis360’s initial target, though it is the families of vulnerable people and the clients themselves who are at the heart of the company’s ambitions. “As well as making service providers more accountable, and serving as a benchmark for transparency, this is about providing reassurance of attentive, continuous care,” Helen notes. Even just priming carers with on-tap notes about the client’s interests so they can have meaningful conversations can make a huge difference – providing comfort if it is someone new conducting the visit, she adds.
“Although there are other care management systems on the market, there is nothing that comes close to what we do, or with our breadth of functionality,” she says. “DCSL GuideSmiths has given us a huge competitive advantage.”
Although there are other care management systems on the market, there is nothing that comes close to what we do, or with our breadth of functionality, DCSL GuideSmiths has given us a huge competitive advantage.
This is just the beginning for Karantis360. Current marketing campaigns, via social media and other channels, are concentrating on the English-speaking market for now, but Tim says the product will be taken to the worldwide market in due course. DCSL GuideSmiths has provided for easy translation to other languages in the product’s design. Further plans include using a broader range of sensors from supplier EnOcean, which offers a catalogue of 4,000 options.
“In surveys, 97% of people say they would prefer to continue living in their own homes in the case of old age or infirmity, and our mission is to help make that happen,” Helen says.
With DCSL GuideSmiths on hand to keep driving new innovation, the company is in good hands, she concludes. “DCSL GuideSmiths’ knowledge, drive and ability to accommodate requests and provide constructive feedback has been instrumental in getting Karantis360 to market,” she says. “Our relationship is a true partnership. They have taken us from vision to market extremely rapidly, with a very high-quality product that has great appeal, is highly secure and scalable globally. We couldn’t have asked for more.”