Smart home tech makes inroads into China’s emerging senior care market – Reuters

WEIFANG, China (Reuters) – Charging elderly customers simply 1 yuan or about 15 cents a day, little-known Lanchuang Network Innovation Corp has started among the most enthusiastic undertakings in aged care by an economic sector firm in China.

FILE IMAGE: An elderly female strolls with a stick along a street in downtown Beijing, China July 30, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Provided with a setup box, a webcam matched with a TELEVISION set and “Xiaoyi”, a Siri-like voice assistant, clients access to telemedicine and an SOS system in addition to for-pay services that consist of housekeeping and meal shipments.

A small robotic that can phone a medical center in response to verbal calls for aid costs an additional 2 yuan daily.

Introduced just four months ago, Lanchuang’s clever care system has already signed up 220,000 senior customers in 16 cities, half of which remain in Shandong, a rapidly aging province in eastern China where the company is based.

It is targeting as numerous as 1.5 million users this year, 12 million next year and 30 million in 2021, when it hopes to list on China’s new Nasdaq-style tech board.

The goal, however, is not to earn money from its customers, some of whom get by on pensions as low as a few hundred yuan a month, however to take a cut from suppliers of offline services.

“China’s market for elderly care is huge, but services in the industry are fragmented,” CEO Li Libo told Reuters in an interview at his company’s head office in Weifang city.

“Spread on the ground are pearls,” Li, 47, stated of the product or services available, adding it was his business’s aim to string them together.

Lanchuang, which is also dealing with China Mobile Ltd (0941. HK) on a smartphone for seniors, is an example of growing, albeit still nascent, efforts by business owners to offer detailed smart home care services for China’s large number of elderly.

China has a quarter of a billion individuals aged 60 or over, and by 2050, that number is set to reach almost half a billion, or 35% of the population, according to federal government price quotes.

Liu, 66, a native of Jinan, Shandong’s capital, understands how hard taking care of the elderly can be. In her mother’s last years, her urinary system would get blocked in spite of wearing a catheter and often in the middle of the night, to her child’s despair.

“If just I had been able to reach a doctor to assist my mother, but medical professionals are not reachable 24 hr a day,” said Liu, who just offered her surname.

The retired accounting professional, who was unaware of tech products aimed at the elderly, now lives alone and hesitates to difficulty her own child and son-in-law.

Care of aging moms and dads has traditionally fallen on the shoulders of kids, however in contemporary China, where the one-child policy was eliminated only in 2016, the daughter or son needs to care for as lots of as four aging individuals consisting of in-laws. Frequently, children have transferred to cities far away for work.

Retirement and nursing houses are on the increase, but are too pricey for a lot of families and largely perceived as ridden with abuse. Three-quarters of old individuals choose to live out their days at home, official studies show.

LOCAL AUTHORITIES

While Beijing has been eager to develop a policy framework for an official aged care system, city governments have actually hesitated to support aged-care services which they view as nice-to-haves or simply excessive work.

However change is afoot.

In April, Beijing provided an in-depth policy document laying out services to be developed for the sector, including smart technology, in addition to financial assistance.

The main federal government offered practically 22 million yuan ($3 million) in subsidies for Lanchuang’s wise platform and the Shandong provincial government has offered 3 million yuan.

That level of encouragement is a far cry from a years ago when entrepreneurs regularly consulted with regional resistance.

“Why are you doing this? What has this got to do with me?” stated U.S. business owner Wang Jie, 59, as he recalled hesitant appearances when he sounded out local authorities in China about trials of movement sensors at people’s houses.

Wang had to go to Canada for his trials. When he returned to Beijing in late 2013 to kick start an endeavor, Wang had to convince local authorities, district by district, of the virtues of his sensors – which help relative monitor activity levels of elderly individuals through an app however are not as intrusive as electronic cameras.

Wang, who sits on the National Advisory Committee on Smart Elderly Care, has because managed to make inroads into two Beijing districts, with talks underway with three others.

The two districts have helped Wang identify high-risk people, usually those aged 70 and above, who live alone and may be ready to utilize his sensors.

His company, Beijing eCare Smart Tech Co, has sold several hundred sets of sensors in Beijing up until now this year under three-year agreements with community organizations. Wang’s business likewise helps train grassroots emergency response teams as part of the deal. Families pay nothing.

“If an elderly individual dies and the body is just discovered after 3 days, this develops unfavorable publicity for the regional government, publicity that it wishes to prevent,” Wang stated.

EARLY DAYS

Entrepreneurs in other graying economies such as the United States, Britain and South Korea have actually similarly seized on opportunities in the sector, touting technologies from voice acknowledgment for house appliances to robotic companions for lonely old people.

But it is still early days in China.

In Weifang, Zhuojing Healthcare Center, among 147 community medical company linked to the Lanchuang network, stated it has just receives 1-2 calls through the system a day.

On a Reuters see organized by Lanchuang to the houses of 2 senior clients in Weifang, both stated they utilize the platform mainly for video talks with family.

Zhao Xi’e, 55, said she uses it to talk to her mother who lives nearby.

Zhao’s shopping and food delivery panels on her TELEVISION screen were grayed out, showing zero service suppliers in her neighborhood.

She was also unaware the red button on her portable control had an SOS function.

“Is that an on/off button?” she asked.

Reporting by Ryan Woo; Extra reporting by Beijing newsroom; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

This content was originally published here.

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