How Hit Video Game Fortnite Informs Thrive’s New Tech Push

An initiative to roll out voice-enabled smart technology in all of Thrive Senior Living’s communities is taking some inspiration from one of the biggest recent phenomenons in video gaming: Fortnite.

Specifically, much as Fortnite’s developers continually adapt the game based on player input, Thrive’s technology is enabling the senior living provider to better customize its care and services to match what residents want and need.

Atlanta-based Thrive recently unveiled plans to launch the integrated technology platform in all of its senior living communities — 20 open, five under construction — over the next 18 to 24 months. It will accomplish that by collaborating with Aiva, a Los Angeles-based startup that works with hospitals, physician offices, skilled nursing facilities and senior living communities.

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Aiva uses Google Home, Amazon Echo and smart speakers to engage Thrive residents. The platform gives older adults the ability to contact caregivers for assistance, check the weather, search the web, listen to music and stay up-to-date with their community’s social programming and dining.

And for Thrive, the platform offers a mobile app for caregivers to track and manage resident requests, a performance reporting dashboard and the ability to control voice assistants’ settings and interactions with other smart devices such as TVs, lights and thermostats.

The ability to track what residents are requesting is an especially crucial part of the new tech platform, according to Thrive Senior Living President Les Strech.

“We’re able to see exactly what residents are asking for,” Strech told Senior Housing News. “And we’re only going to get smarter about that.”

For example, the program’s initial seven-week pilot program involving two communities indicated showed that residents used voice controls at twice the rate of average users. Participants told Thrive that employees who used the technology arrived faster and were better informed than those who didn’t. Thrive also discovered that about 40% of its residents are using the smart technology for Alexa game functions, like the 20 Questions skill. Those tidbits of knowledge and others like it will help the senior living company tailor its tech platform exactly to residents’ preferences in the future.

In a way, that analytical, big-data approach is similar to what some video game companies are already doing — in particular, Fortnite developer Epic Games, which created complex backend tools to track and manage its massive user base. For the uninitiated, Fornite is a free-to-play online shooter game that’s become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon in addition to a huge moneymaker for Epic. That game developer’s analytical approach holds plenty of promise for the senior living industry, according to Strech.

“They’re adapting the game weekly, and almost daily, to meet the needs of the user,” Strech said. “As senior living providers, we need to be implementing things that are not just our opinion, but based on tech-driven outcomes. The data will always tell you a story that removes emotion.”

Indeed, some forward-thinking companies are extolling the virtues of incorporating big data analytics into senior living operations. And outside of senior living, tech giants like Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN), Google (Nasdaq: GOOGL) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) are all tracking what users do and applying those lessons into their user-facing processes.

“Any tech platform that we access every day … it’s all tracked,” Strech said. “It allows that intermediary to be removed. You’re able to hear directly what the desired uses of the end user are.”

While Strech declined to say exactly how much Thrive spent on the entire rollout, he described it as a “significant investment.”

Building meaningful relationships

Thrive isn’t the only senior living provider looking to smart home solutions. Across the industry, more providers are pivoting toward smart homes to deliver their value propositions and better position themselves for the future.

The main reason Thrive invested the time and resources into the rollout is that it wants to elevate the kind of care it brings its residents. The idea is that, if certain menial daily tasks can be automated or put out of mind, caregivers will have more time to spend bonding with residents. In addition, the technology platform can create opportunities for residents to socialize with each other.

“Everyone is trying to trump each other on who gives the best care. That’s a low bar,” Strech said. “Our overarching target is to build meaningful relationships.”

To Thrive, offering something greater than good care might help lure more older adults out of their homes and into senior housing settings.

“We’ve been spending several years trying to figure out why so many folks choose to stay at home when they’ve got great options and the ability to create new social opportunities,” Strech said. “We need to focus on building meaningful relationships, and that is where this initiative is coming from.”

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