The 3 Big Trends Influencing Assistive Technology

At the recent icare Conference in Sydney, Pete Horsley, Founder Remarkable, spoke about the opportunity for positively impacting the lives of those with disability and acquired injury has never been greater. Where could this intersection of disability and technology go? Here is his message…


The 3 Big Trends Influencing Assistive Technology

Advancements in technology for people with a disability are lagging. Lots of assistive technology remains mono-functional, expensive and clunky. Remarkable’s mission is to see elegant and affordable technology solutions in the hands of people with a disability, as a way to overcome barriers to inclusion. For us to realise that mission, we need to consider what is happening more broadly in the tech world. We see 3 trends influencing tech development, that disability tech will need to adopt in order to bring its much-anticipated growth.

Technology experts are in agreement that we are now into the fourth industrial revolution. First steam, then electricity and mass production, more recently came the third revolution of digital technology. Now the fourth revolution builds on the third and connects the billions of people and technologies with each other in the cloud and simulates human intelligence processes using computers. This. Is. Big.

Right now, we are sitting at the edge of an incredible new era in technology. The opportunity for positively impacting the lives of those with disability and acquired injury has never been greater. Where could this intersection of disability and technology go?

Already we are seeing the ways that robotics, wearables, sensor technologies and AI can aid people with disabilities to overcome barriers and become a powerful driver of inclusion. Add to this the coming global rise of an aging population and there is a market opportunity that technologists, entrepreneurs and engineers would be crazy to ignore.

Like it or not, if you’re ignoring these trends, you will be left behind. These are the 3 Big Trends Influencing Assistive Technology:

  1. Expectation Transfer

Each day we are introduced to new levels of user experience through technology. The virtuous cycle creates rising customer expectations of how we anticipate interacting with a company. Typically this has included things like good customer service and a perception of value for money. Increasingly though, these expectations are being inflated through our interactions with companies like Netflix, Spotify and YouTube. Now we expect companies to personalise their support for us, provide proactive service and “one-click” functionality.

Application: As founders, start thinking about one way you could provide personalised, or proactive service and experience through your product or service.

  1. Big Data and AI

Humans are fascinating – we often find ourselves in constant states of contradiction when it comes to data, disclosure and customer experience. Customers expect personalised experiences, but equally, are completely sceptical about whether that data will be kept secure or if it will be used for other purposes for the benefit of the company. Salesforce in their 2nd edition of the State of the Connected Customer, talked about the importance of trust when it comes to handling a customers data, but do also state that “79% of customers are willing to share relevant information about themselves in exchange for contextualized interactions in which they’re immediately known and understood.” So we need to be transparent around why we’re collecting data, and demonstrate how it enhances the customer experience. Big Data and its use in AI is not just emerging, but it is fast becoming an essential ingredient in delivering the personalised approach customers are expecting.

Application: How can you think about designing products and services that are provided “just in time” – proactively understanding the needs of your customers. It might not form part of your first product, but how can you build this into your development roadmap?

  1. Seamless Integration

Denise Stephens is the Founder of Enabled by Design in the UK and started her journey into assistive tech after she was diagnosed with MS and was dismayed with how quickly her home started looking more and more “hospital-like” with the introduction of various aids and equipment she needed for managing her MS. She desperately wanted to see beautifully designed products that could be usable by a wide range of people, helping to remove some of the stigma of disability.

We’re fast approaching a time when the integration of technology built seamlessly into our lives is more possible than ever before.

Earlier this year we hosted a talk from esteemed Harvard Professor Leigh Hochberg on the research for BrainGate – a small array of micro-electrodes about the size of your “pinky” fingernail that is implanted into the brain to pick up neural signals and translates thought into signals to control robotic arms or communication devices. While the first versions included wires being attached to the head, newer versions are wireless and you may not know this incredible technology is allowing someone this level of autonomy and independence.

What does this mean for founders? Some of the best technology solutions aren’t obvious, they are seamlessly integrated into the person’s life, other enterprise technology can be housed on smartphones or built into development from the beginning.

Application: How can you think about the seamless integration of your product or service into the person’s life? Should you consider physical integration? Should you consider partnering with another startup to create greater value together, rather than just one piece of the problem? Or is this thinking about a more universally-designed product that meets the needs of many including people with disabilities?

What now?

There are a growing number of people all over the world who are rallying to create the next wave of truly transformative assistive technology. Never has there been a better time for this – the cost of production of tech is down and expectations for what tech can do are high and getting higher. Soon we will see seamlessly integrated technology and maybe, just maybe our hope for a more inclusive world will be realised.

Remarkable is a technology accelerator that supports early-stage, growth-driven companies looking to help people with disabilities overcome barriers to inclusion. Remarkable offers education, mentorship, and startup capital. Remarkable is on the lookout for the next crop of founders who are wanting to have a disruptive influence on the future of inclusive technologies.

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