More than 1,400 Amazon Echo Show devices will be distributed to assisted living communities across North Carolina by the end of this month, at no cost to providers.
That’s thanks to efforts made by the North Carolina Assisted Living Association (NCALA) and senior living-focused technology platform K4Connect.
The association and K4Connect have worked together for some time, including on presentations that NCALA made to the North Carolina General Assembly about how to potentially ease Covid-19 burdens on assisted living communities, K4Connect Chief Growth Officer Keith Stewart told Senior Housing News.
As a result of those presentations, the General Assembly allocated several grants to NCALA. One such grant consisted of $500,000 derived from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund, given with the mandate to help communities ease resident isolation through technology. Again working together, NCALA and K4Connect determined that providing the Amazon devices would be the most effective use of the money.
They reached this decision based on several factors, Stewart said. One factor was the strong relationship between Amazon and K4Connect; the two companies worked together to create the Alexa for Hospitality tools, and earlier this year distributed 8,400 Amazon Dot devices to assist senior living providers nationwide during the pandemic.
Because they incorporate a visual element with its screen, the Echo Show devices are even more well-suited than Dots for older adult users, Stewart said. Rather than just using their voices to activate and control the devices, users can be guided by visual prompts and suggestions. The idea is that communities can set up the Echo Shows in common areas, where residents will be able to use them to connect virtually with friends and family.
The relationship with Amazon also helped in achieving the logistical feat of bulk purchasing the devices and having them all delivered to Raleigh during the Christmas season, Stewart noted.
Now, the Echo Shows are all available for distribution. Interested assisted living providers can register via a website to receive up to one device for every 40 residents. So far, based on registrations received via that site and work K4Connect has done with its existing clients, about 250 registrations have been received, Stewart said. The organizations anticipate having nearly all communities in the state registered by Jan. 15, and the devices delivered by the end of the month.
K4Connect is pre-configuring the Echo Shows based on information in each community’s registration, so that they basically can be used straight out of the box. And K4Connect is offering one year of support, with an option for communities to extend beyond that. K4Connect is receiving grant money to cover the costs of this effort, but it is not meant to drive profits, Stewart noted.
This is just the latest example of how voice-activated technology has been utilized by senior living providers during the pandemic. In another instance, Merrill Gardens deployed Google Nest devices, which have proven beneficial.
“100% it’s in line with the direction we’re heading and the direction we think the industry is going,” Stewart said of the increase in voice tech within senior living.
K4Connect will receive data about what Echo Show functions are being used most often, which will enable the company to help providers maximize their effectiveness. Ultimately, data on this initiative will be shared with the General Assembly to demonstrate the impact of this investment. Stewart is confident that the data will prove out the value of the technology, and his confidence is shared by NCALA President and CEO Frances Messer.
“NCALA is honored to have received this grant and confident it will bring value to our assisted living communities throughout the state,” Messer said in a press release issued Wednesday.