Best Buy bets on adults remotely monitoring their aging parents | Impact Lab

By 2020, 45 million Americans will be caring for 117 million seniors. The retailer offers a $29 monthly monitoring service using internet-connected gear.

Jane Helgesen had a rough night recently, as nausea kept the 71-year-old retired nurse scurrying to the bathroom. A sensor under the bed recorded her comings and goings, sending alerts to her daughter, Britt, who lives nearby. Feeling better the next day, Helgesen used a doorbell camera to welcome guests, whose images are displayed on her rose-gold iPhone, which she also uses to unlock the front door and tweak the thermostat.

The smart gadgets in Helgesen’s three-bedroom townhouse in the Twin Cities suburb of Woodbury, Minn., aren’t new. What’s different is that Best Buy Co., better known for hawking TVs and computers than for selling geriatric-care products, is wiring it all together. The electronics retailer, which sells an entry-level package of gear for $389.96 (installation costs an extra $199), also provides a monitoring service for $29 a month.

Helgesen’s home is a proving ground for this fledgling unit, called Assured Living, now open for business in Denver as well as the Twin Cities area. If the two test markets work out, Best Buy Chief Executive Officer Hubert Joly envisions rolling out a broader business of sensor-based senior services, sold through health-and-wellness departments in Best Buy’s more than 1,000 stores. He concedes it’s a bit of a stretch for the electronics retailer: “We’re not top of mind” in the geriatric-care market.

For now, Best Buy is one of a number of consumer and tech companies jockeying for position in a race for a likely $50 billion market to remotely look after grandma. Joly calls it “white space waiting to be captured.” Google, Microsoft, and Samsung are all going after the smart-home market with networked gear such as security cameras and thermostats that can be managed by voice controllers or smartphones. Inc. has already introduced a smart-home installation program in several West Coast cities. All of these systems could easily be tailored to keep an eye on the elderly.

“We don’t have enough long-term-care facilities to take care of people, and 90 percent of seniors want to stay at home”

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