A smart case that can make any phone friendly and easier to use for elderly and disabled people is launching on crowd-funding web site Kickstarter.
Developed by British telecommunications engineer Richard Chan and dubbed the EziSmart, the case has ergonomically-designed concave buttons that are easier to use than a touch screen when someone has trembling hands. The device also comes with an emergency help app through which the user can send an alarm to their next of kin in case of an accident. The system sends an automated SMS with a GPS location to the selected relative and contacts a manned emergency helpdesk.
"I got the idea when my elderly mother back in England suffered a series of serious strokes", said Chan, who has developed the smart case in cooperation with Norwegian research institute SITNEF.
"It was expensive to call and her disability made it impossible for her to communicate using Skype, even though she had all her faculties.”
It took a serious accident, which left his mother lying on the floor for five hours and unable to call help, that forced Chan to have a serious look at the problems elderly and disabled people are facing when using a modern mobile phone.
"This was an idea that grabbed our attention at once", said SITNEF researcher and Project Manager Hanne Opsahl Austad. "We all know that smartphones make communication with the outside world very easy and that this enhances our quality of life. This is especially true for people who can't get out as much as others.”
Chan has been working with SITNEF since the summer of 2015. He has already tested his invention with one Parkinson’s disease sufferer.
“After only two minutes he could call and compose messages – something which previously had been impossible for him with the touch screen", said Chan.
The team now plans to run further tests with a panel of elderly and disabled users, who will be given the smart cases for a period of time to see how convenient it is for sending messages, taking pictures and surfing the web.
"The new system will be compatible with many different types of phones, giving the elderly the same freedom of choice as everyone else when it comes to choosing a phone", said Austad, explaining the major advantage of the smart case over existing mobile phones designed specifically for the elderly.
The team will be launching a Kickstarter campaign this month to get more funding. They hope to have the device on the market some time in 2016.