Senior Living: Don't Fall For The Latest Technology Fads Recently, I was asked by Seniors Housing Business if I thought the senior living industry was currently experiencing a “slow technological evolution or a rapid revolution.” This was my short response: “The visible side of technology is clearly in the ‘[r]evolution.’ I prefer calling it the ‘shiny objects’ phase. There’s a steady stream of gadgets, software, and services being announced. Some are unique and new (predictive health systems), others are a repackaging of those from other sectors (Uber-type anything). My advice is to wait until the winners shake out. Now is the time for operators to lay the foundation for the future. Many new in-community technologies rely on wireless connection. Many existing Wi-Fi installations provide coverage by area. The next round will need to provide coverage by number of devices as well.” Be Wary of Shiny Objects Shiny objects are anything that attracts our attention, for better or for worse. They can also distract us, like looking at an accident on the freeway, a sensational news article, or a new and flashy car. Shiny objects can be seen in every kind of technology advancement. In fact, virtually every new technology, product, or market goes through a fairly well-defined cycle: Introduction > Growth > Shakeout > Maturity > Decline. The Introduction and Growth phases are full of new shiny objects, but few make it through the Shakeout phase. In the early days of the Web, thousands of sites and applications were creates for anything and everything, from social media (called “communities” at the time) to business apps (like project management or voice-controlled Microsoft Office), to downright wackiness (like the aroma printer that supposedly “printed” smells). When the Internet bubble burst around 1999 to 2000, most of those shiny objects disappeared in the resulting Shakeout phase. The void left by all the community sites helped Facebook become what it is today. Microsoft Office became the standard for office automation. And the aroma printer…well, that is making another comeback for some reason. Ultimately, the Shakeout phase left some people with abandoned technologies; conversations and articles were lost on shuttered communities, and documents and spreadsheets were damaged or messed up because Microsoft Office didn’t handle other formats well. Shiny Objects Aren't Always Bad However, shiny objects and their attractiveness aren’t intrinsically bad. It’s good to evolve, do things differently, and challenge your current situation. One example I’ve seen of this is voice control. I originally saw a voice-controlled Microsoft Excel demo in 1983. It was definitely cool, but talking to your computer seemed like a strange idea, particularly in an office when you’re surrounded by co-workers. In the mid-1990s, I hosted a tradeshow booth that featured a voice control system designed for high-noise industrial environments. It was fascinating, but never built a strong enough market. Fast forward to Christmas 2016, where voice-controlled objects literally found a home. How many of your friends bought Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Home to voice power their home? (Search for “Burger King Google Home” for an interesting experiment Burger King tried.) Technologies like voice control show that it’s wise to invest your time and data judicially. Give new technologies time to shakeout and make it to the Maturity phase. It’s also beneficial to try several types of the same technology to see which one is superior and works best for your purposes. That way, you aren’t “betting the farm” on a single product until closer to the end of the Shakeout phase. Build a Solid Road Another appropriate approach to new technologies is to start building a solid technological infrastructure now with established technology. Instead of focusing on the new gadgets and software that are constantly being announced, focus on upgrading your current technology with more advanced features that are already proven. New resident and care technologies are on the horizon, and the current push is around Electronic Health Records (EHR). Wireless coverage has been driven by EHRs, because your staff has to be able to access them anywhere in the facility, wherever they may be. When you’re seeing these cool ideas about resident and care technologies being announced, know that these will require much more wireless density, not just good wireless coverage. What you do now to provide wireless coverage lays down a solid road to help drive the wireless density later. Basically, you can invest in wireless advancements now that will help you later on down the road. We’re in an industry that is constantly changing, and it can be difficult to decipher whether a new technology would be beneficial or not. Before you implement anything new, take an in-depth look at it to make sure that it isn’t going to Shakeout any time soon. What technology are you thinking about changing or upgrading? Steve Simpson Steve Simpson is an experienced Account Executive at Aureon, where he works with business leaders and technical resources to explore new ideas. For the last 30 years, his efforts have been focused on providing technology services in healthcare, manufacturing, banking, state/local government, and senior living communities.