21 September 2021
IoHT – The Value of Independence, Reassurance & Insight
IoT Leaders with Nick Earle, CEO of Eseye and Alex Nash, Founder and Director at Alcuris
21 September 2021
IoT Leaders with Nick Earle, CEO of Eseye and Alex Nash, Founder and Director at Alcuris
Our latest guest doesn’t only tell a good technology story, but he also tells a story that resonates with so many of us: using IoT devices to provide care for the vulnerable and elderly, especially people with dementia.
In this episode, Nick interviews Alex Nash, Founder and Director at Alcuris, about his founding journey from inception to present-day innovation.
Join us as we discuss:
Join us on the IoT Leaders Podcast and share your stories about IoT, digital transformation and innovation with host, Nick Earle.Contact us
You’re listening to IoT Leaders, a podcast from Eseye that shares real IoT stories from the field about digital transformation, swings and misses, lessons learned, and innovation strategies that work. In each episode, you’ll hear our conversations with top digitization leaders on how IoT is changing the world for the better. Let IoT Leaders be your guide to IoT, digital transformation, and innovation. Let’s get into the show.
Nick Earle (00:35):
Welcome to the latest episode of the IoT Leaders podcast with me, your host, Nick Earle, the CEO of Eseye. And I think for our listeners and indeed our viewers, I think you’re really going to enjoy this episode. I mean, it’s not only just a great example of how IoT can add value on a human level, and to society. It’s a good technology story, but perhaps it’s also a great story about how an entrepreneur can start a company, and hustle, and actually build something to fill a gap in the marketplace. With that big setup, I’m delighted to introduce Alex Nash, who’s the CEO of an IoT company in the UK called Alcuris. And so Alex, welcome to the IoT Leaders podcast.
Alex Nash (01:24):
Thank you very much, Nick. It’s great to be here.
Nick Earle (01:25):
Great. And one of the things that we are trying to do with this podcast series is as we say, demystify IoT, and actually a lot of people find it very difficult. It’s not easy and a lot of people hit problems in deploying it. And so we really like to show them examples and hear from the horse’s mouth, so to speak of people who have sort of made it through, I don’t know, building either new offerings or in your case, a brand new business. In this case, it’s in the healthcare space, so let’s dive in and Alcuris for anyone listening to this is A-L-C-U-R-I-S, so you could take a look at the website as you listen. And actually you’ll find a picture of Alex’s granddad, I believe on the website. And it all started off with your granddad, didn’t it? What’s the story?
Alex Nash (02:16):
Absolutely, so it was really sort of early 2015. I was about to go into my final year of university and had to come up with a final year project. I was studying engineering at Loughborough. I always wanted to set up my own company, always been interested in that. And I was really trying to find the inspiration for what area to go into. And around that time, my grandfather was diagnosed with dementia, and suddenly I was thrown into a world that I had no knowledge of, with carers, with sort of technology that could maybe support him. And I remember going to see my granddad and the council there, and there was patient therapies and said, oh, we can provide this panic button. I said, okay. What does it do? And they said, well, it’s a red panic button and if he presses it, it will make a two-way phone call to a monitoring center. I said, okay. And what if he doesn’t wear it? Oh, well he just needs to remember to wear it. But he’s got dementia.
Nick Earle (03:12):
Alex Nash (03:13):
Well, just encourage it. I was thinking this is odd. I said, well, what about if he forgets to press it when he needs it? Well, you just need to remind him that he’s got this. And she said, and you can be reassured if anything happens, he’ll press it and you’ll know.
Nick Earle (03:29):
And I’m assuming Alex, you weren’t…. Were the family living with him at the time?
Alex Nash (03:34):
No, my grandma was living with him at the time, but she also wanted to go out and go shopping and everything else. She was also partially sighted as well, so she had some challenges and the sort of solutions that were given just didn’t really fit. And I thought, if I can go home, and this was around sort of time that other sort of IoT paid monitoring platforms were really gaining traction. I thought if I can be on the other side of the world and control my heating, why can’t I know whether my grandad’s okay. Why do I have to wait for him to press a panic button? And it was really very odd. And then sadly my grandma passed away and he needed to have some domiciliary care. And then it was a case of, well, the carers could turn up.
Alex Nash (04:18):
Okay. Do we know that they’ve turned up? Well, not necessarily. Do you know how long they’ve stayed for? Well they’ll fill out a book and you can look at the book to see how long they stayed. And I was thinking again, this should all be brought together. Why does it have to be so siloed? He also had Type 2 diabetes, so he was taking his blood and writing the notes down, and those notes were based on what insulin he then had to be given. I was thinking for somebody with dementia that can get confused, that can struggle to write, for us to be basing his medication on what he’s written down seems somewhat worrying.
Nick Earle (04:55):
I have to jump in and say that this is kind of spooky because, and I’m sure many people listening to this will say that was me as well. But I have to tell you, and I hadn’t shared this with you previously when we first started our sort of little prep chat, so my mum no longer sadly with us. But my mum was in exactly the same situation, but she was living on her own, in a house in Liverpool where down south near the sort of Windsor West London area. And she had dementia, which was turning into Alzheimer’s because of course it’s a journey. And she got one of these lanyards with a button, which she never wore, she always forgot. And the reason we got her it was because she was found one day, lying on the landing because she’d fallen over, got out of bed and fallen over in the night and stayed the night on the landing.
Nick Earle (05:43):
But she also was diabetic, so she injected herself and we were always thinking, oh my God, she could forget. She could inject herself three times in a day. And the carers would come in, but we had no idea, we were 200 miles. I mean, exactly. I mean, I think a lot of people listening to this can say, yeah, exactly. And nothing’s joined up, is it? It’s all sort of separate.
Alex Nash (06:07):
It’s completely fragmented. And as you said, the amount of times when I tell my story, and then everybody goes, actually, I’ve got exactly the same story. A few details are different, but broadly speaking, it’s the same story. And I think it’s something that affects so many people. It’s such a real challenge. And that’s what really led me to developing the solution that we have today.
Nick Earle (06:30):
That was the spark. You thought there’s got to be a better way.
Alex Nash (06:33):
Nick Earle (06:33):
A difficult problem because clearly no one has solved it yet. I mean, you’ve got councils and care in the community, which isn’t the most high-tech area. You’ve got lots of different suppliers, lots of different equipment, you’ve got non sophisticated users with dementia, and then you’ve got the fact that you were a student, a recently graduated student from Loughborough University in the middle of England.
Alex Nash (06:55):
Nick Earle (06:57):
With an engineering degree, who has always wanting to become an entrepreneur, start your own company. But now you’ve got the genesis of the idea, what happened next?
Alex Nash (07:05):
Yes. I graduated in 2016, at the end of 2015 I’d registered the name Alcuris and set up the company, which was the easy bit. I then had to sort of go about and convince some people to try to give me some money, so I could go ahead and employ some people. And at that time I’d actually been introduced to somebody who is now our CTO, every week we used to meet at the pub and every week he used to ask, have you got the money now, so I can quit my job and start doing this? The first thing I did was apply for an Innovate UK grant. We were fortunate enough to be successful with that grant, but what I needed was the max funding. And I remember the piece of paper came through and it said that you have to, I think, had to raise 80,000 pounds of match funding and had a period to do it within.
Alex Nash (07:49):
And I had no idea where to start, so I started emailing, meeting, speaking to anybody and everybody that I could, probably irritating quite a few people on the way. And there was an event called the British Business Show, so I thought I might as well go there and check that out. And at this event there was a number of keynote speakers. And there was one speaker who had the sort of, I think, one of the last slots and I’d missed probably 90% of the talk, but just towards the end, this guy steps off the stage. And he’s immediately swamped by loads of people trying to get his contact details and email address. And I’m sort of on the periphery with all these people and I overhear him giving his email address to somebody, so I wrote his email address down-
Nick Earle (08:34):
On the back of your hand or something like that?
Alex Nash (08:38):
I think it pretty much was. Yeah, I think it was literally written on the top my hand, I was sort of trying to trying to type it away into my phone.
Nick Earle (08:44):
I can just imagine you getting a pen out quickly.
Alex Nash (08:47):
This can be very useful.
Nick Earle (08:49):
And who was this guy? Just in context of the story?
Alex Nash (08:51):
Well, I’d emailed this guy, Mike, my business plan on the Friday and over the weekend, I sort of did a bit of reading and-
Nick Earle (08:59):
You didn’t even know who he was.
Alex Nash (09:01):
No, no, I’d heard of the company, so the company was PureGym, but I didn’t know very much.
Nick Earle (09:07):
Big UK fitness chain. Yeah.
Alex Nash (09:10):
Yeah. And because I probably should go to the gym more than I do. I sort of knew the brand, but didn’t know a huge amount about it, so I looked him up and I realized that this guy, Peter Roberts was a serial entrepreneur. He’d actually sold PureGym a few weeks prior to this event for 600 million.
Nick Earle (09:30):
Alex Nash (09:32):
Yeah, so he had the number one thing that I always look for in a good investor, which is cash. But he’s clearly been hugely successful with his background. He’d set up business after business, largely in the leisure industry. And had been incredibly successful with most of those businesses. Only met him on the Friday, found this out over the weekend, thinking it’s quite unlikely I’m going to get any response at all. And this is on the back of emailing. Yeah. Loads of people, probably hundreds of people over the last few months. But on the Monday I got an email back saying, very interesting. Let’s have a call. Thinking it’d be in a few months time. Later that afternoon I had a call with him. A week later, I was having lunch and a few hours after that on the way back on a train, I got an email saying that he would like to invest. And that was the sort of the tick for me.
Nick Earle (10:23):
We’ve got to hit the pause because let me tell you as the CEO of a company that is still private and we’re doing fundraising. Fundraising doesn’t normally happen, all right.
Alex Nash (10:34):
I’ve learnt that since.
Nick Earle (10:35):
Oh, boy. Let me tell you, it takes about, I mean, if we’re talking bigger sums of money, but even so in relative terms, this is the most important one you’ll ever do. It takes six to nine months. I mean, and that’s quick, so you met the guy, didn’t listen to his speech, you were late. Tried to get to him, were mobbed. Overheard his email address, wrote it on the back of your hand. Whacked him off an email, didn’t expect a response, got a response on the Monday. He said, let’s have a meeting. He then offered you a slot, I guess the same day, which probably surprised you. Had lunch with him and then three or four hours later or whatever he gives you money.
Alex Nash (11:15):
Nick Earle (11:16):
It’s easy. I mean, why do we employ professionals when it’s this easy?
Alex Nash (11:19):
I know, I know. I was sort of lulled into a false sense of security as to how fundraising would work from then on.
Nick Earle (11:27):
But you got a mentor as well though, didn’t you? I mean, you didn’t just get money. It’s almost like a Dragons’ Den or Shark Tank in the US.
Alex Nash (11:35):
Nick Earle (11:35):
You got a mentor out of it.
Alex Nash (11:37):
Yeah. And that’s been incredibly valuable, so Peter didn’t just invest and he’s invested in every round. And he’s also an advisor to the board, attends the board meetings, and has been a huge supportive figure. He’s somebody who’s been there, done it. There’s very, very few things that we can sort of throw out that he hasn’t seen before. And then he started bringing in his own investor group as well, so I answered the second funding round.
Nick Earle (12:04):
Alex Nash (12:04):
He sort of brought in some other contacts that he had. And we’ve really sort of grown from then. I obviously then managed to go back to our CTO, tell him that we’ve raised the money that we needed-
Nick Earle (12:15):
Quit, joined you?
Alex Nash (12:16):
Yeah, he quit his last job, joined us full time. And I remember our sort of first day together in this tiny office with a whiteboard. And we sort of said, right, how does the solution look?
Nick Earle (12:27):
Alex Nash (12:29):
And started sort of mapping it out from there. And that was sort of really that the start of being able to achieve what we wanted to, which was really based around three things. We distilled everything we wanted the company to achieve into three things. One was independence for older and vulnerable individuals. The second was reassurance for their friends, families, and carers. And the third was insight for local authorities and care providers. And that really defines what we try to do.
Nick Earle (13:02):
That’s interesting, so what you’re saying is, so first of all, there’s the patient or the ultimate customer, the elderly person, but there’s also two other segments in your business plan. There’s the relatives who want to know what’s going on.
Alex Nash (13:16):
Nick Earle (13:17):
And they’re not getting the information. And then you’ve got the councils who have the duty of care to provide care in the community. And so now you have to follow sort of a business plan together that compresses all three, right? Yeah.
Alex Nash (13:30):
Absolutely. And for us, I’ve looked into the market and saw that there was a number of companies that were really struggling or had failed. And I tried to group the different companies, and broadly speaking, there was two groups of company, one that was successful and one that was largely unsuccessful, in gaining traction. This successful group, all has something in common and they offered what’s called a social alarm. And this is the very red panic button that my granddad was offered previously, that when you press this panic button a two way phone call goes through to a monitoring center, you can connect maybe a smoke alarm to the system as well. It’s got battery backup, so it doesn’t rely on the internet. And there’s quite a bit of resilience there with the product. And they sold these to pretty much every local authority. In the UK, there’s around 1.8 million of these products. Across Europe, there’s around 5.3 million.
Nick Earle (14:23):
Alex Nash (14:23):
The other group were these companies that were trying to do what’s called activities of daily living. They didn’t have a social alarm, but what they offered were sensors based around a property that would show you dots on a screen.
Nick Earle (14:35):
Alex Nash (14:36):
Whether mum was in the kitchen or not, and I thought-
Nick Earle (14:38):
They’re really separate solutions.
Alex Nash (14:41):
Two completely separate solutions. The second of which was far more expensive than the social alarm. It provided a lot more value, but more expensive. My view was why don’t we bring both of these together within a single product. A social alarm that had 4G connections that didn’t have to rely on wifi, the battery backup. And actually if we’ve got the sensor technology, why don’t we also put in Bluetooth so we can connect to health devices as well? Why don’t we also put RFID in so we can log carers in and out as well.
Nick Earle (15:11):
Alex Nash (15:11):
With one product, we can do everything. And obviously we then need to send this data to some kind of platform. And actually rather than just displaying what’s happened, why don’t we put a layer of insight on top of this? Why don’t we learn an individual’s normal routines and normal behavior, spot changes, and let local authorities know? And this was sort of the plan. And the real catalyst was that I then very quickly was made aware of a massive event that was happening in our industry, which was the analog to digital transformation. So I was then told actually, Alex of these 1.8 million devices, 90% or so are analog, so they will need to be replaced by 2025 because the protocols that they use, don’t work very well on a digital network, so I thought well, hold on, so the first time it maybe 20, 25 years local authorities are having to upgrade-
Nick Earle (16:06):
compelling events. Yeah. Yeah.
Alex Nash (16:08):
And that really tied in really nicely with what we were doing because actually in a digital world, why wait for somebody to press their panic button? Why offer a reactive model of care, which is wait for the panic button to press, then do something about it. One actually learned from the data, look at what the insight is telling you, to start to move away from a purely reactive based care approach to one that is proactive and therefore preventative. If somebody is taking longer and longer to go up and down the stairs, if somebody’s bathroom visits have suddenly increased. Don’t wait for a urinary tract infection and for it to get worse and worse, and then a hospital visit.
Alex Nash (16:50):
Make a proactive phone call, make a wellbeing check. And that’s exactly what we are now providing to local authorities. And obviously bringing their families in as well, so their families don’t have to wait from a call from a monitoring center. They could check the app, see that mum has made a cup of tea that morning or dad’s got out of bed and, et cetera. They can see this just by a quick glance.
Nick Earle (17:13):
And I believe it’s a subscription model. And so if I’m that middle group and I wanted to, if my mum had, had this and… I wish she had, but she didn’t. But if she had this, and if I’m local, I guess I can go around there. But if I’m far away, I can’t rush around there. I understand there’s a two tier subscription model for the family and friends to get a certain level of information, so that’s a form of revenue as well, which is a subscription model through the app, right?
Alex Nash (17:40):
Absolutely. We have different models depending on the customer, so we always have a reoccurring revenue model for local authorities and that really pays for the platform. And then we can also have family members as well, accessing the platform via an app. And obviously permission roles could all be defined depending on who you are, an installer would obviously have very different permission levels to a family member who would have different permission levels to an occupational therapist. One of the really interesting things to actually note was when we started out, we had to develop our own hardware because frankly, nobody else had the hardware that could handle the data. One of the really interesting things that starts to emerge is the companies that would be our competitors are starting to update their own analog infrastructure, so we’re now in talks with some of these large companies to integrate their hardware into our platform, so actually as a local authority, it doesn’t really matter what piece of hardware you have because at a platform level, we can offer all the insight and the analytics depending on what’s sent through.
Nick Earle (18:46):
Right, so you’ve actually started off with a hardware and you’re becoming a platform company, but we’re getting a bit of ahead of ourselves. Let’s go back to the early stage of the story, so you’ve got your business plan, you’ve got your three-day funding process, you got your money, and now you need to develop a piece of hardware which didn’t exist. Now hardware is called hardware for a reason, right? It’s hard, right.
Alex Nash (19:05):
Nick Earle (19:05):
Now you’ve got to develop a piece of, even though you’ve got an engineering degree, hardware is hard, and it’s a home hub. Have you got one?
Alex Nash (19:12):
Yes. Absolutely, so this is our hub that we call memo, so we’ve got this sort of loudspeaker underneath the microphones on top and then the touch screen as well.
Nick Earle (19:24):
Alex Nash (19:24):
You’ve got what the product looks like.
Nick Earle (19:27):
One of the reasons obviously that we’re talking is that you use my company Eseye for conductivity, but we’ve also helped you on the hardware side as well, haven’t we? What’s the story? How did the two companies get working together?
Alex Nash (19:41):
Sure, so actually, at the very beginning we knew that connectivity would be really important. We couldn’t rely on wifi, it’s a nice option, but we couldn’t rely on it, so we had to have a connectivity partner that could both do the data, the voice, and also the security. And we’ll get the sort of different options. Our CTA then said actually, I went to school with somebody that I think is involved in this now, why don’t we just have a phone call and see what comes from it. And that was Paul Marshall.
Nick Earle (20:10):
One of our founders. I have to hit the pause button again, you’re breaking every rule in the book Alex. What people are supposed to do is contact my marketing manager. They’re supposed to go onto the web and they do their research and they find us. And then they fill out forms and they download white papers and they do as a study of all the different players. And then they select people and they go through an RFP process and they did it. No, you’ve got somebody who said, I went to school with a bloke who I think is involved. Why don’t we give him a call? Once again, you collapsed the process.
Alex Nash (20:48):
Nick Earle (20:48):
There’s a lesson here for people, which is why do things over three, four months, six months when you could actually do them in 10 minutes. Anyway-
Alex Nash (20:55):
Yeah, and I think maybe it’s sort of my inexperience or naive optimism, which I think can be an advantage.
Nick Earle (21:01):
Well it’s good for us. Hey, listen now, that was good for us.
Alex Nash (21:04):
Nick Earle (21:07):
You call this guys friend, Paul Marshall, one of our founders.
Alex Nash (21:10):
Nick Earle (21:11):
Paul and Ian founded our company. They’re the guys who invented ZigBee on their device, radio, cellular geeks. They won’t mind me saying that, so the phone call comes in and when was this in the timeline? Where are we now?
Alex Nash (21:24):
We are now in probably early 2017, early to mid 2017.
Nick Earle (21:30):
So you got this idea, you need to create something, it doesn’t exist. You need to get it designed, you need to have voice, which is the digital side, because we’re moving into the digital upgrade of the BTs networks across the UK. And you also need it to be able to connect with other devices that are coming into the home, like glucose measurement devices, I guess, you’d put something on the end of the finger and it measures stuff.
Alex Nash (21:55):
Nick Earle (21:55):
You’ve got a hardware design issue, and so then Paul got engaged.
Alex Nash (22:03):
Yeah. Paul got engaged, we started speaking to him and obviously one of the technologies we also use is ZigBee, so he had a bit of knowledge on that as well.
Nick Earle (22:10):
Just a bit.
Alex Nash (22:11):
Yeah, and we started to describe what we wanted. And really from the outset, he described what Eseye could offer, so we started to work together, work together to help have some input into how our hardware looked and worked, and what the requirements were around sort of security. One of the really interesting pieces was that initially we didn’t think that the SIM would be very much involved in the security.
Nick Earle (22:34):
Alex Nash (22:35):
That was around whatever encryption we’d need later. Then Paul said, well, actually we do have AWS certificate that we can push down to the SIMs. You can read them off the SIMs and then connect to your platform via that. And it’s a great way because actually, if anybody hacks into the hub somehow you can see it revoke the certificates or rotate them.
Nick Earle (22:55):
Yes. Basically quarantine the device, check out what’s working, reissue a new security certificate, and let it back in again.
Alex Nash (23:03):
Nick Earle (23:03):
Alex Nash (23:03):
Yep, absolutely. And it was that, that actually made a lot of sense for us considering that our platform uses AWS.
Nick Earle (23:10):
That’s an important point, isn’t it? Because the hyperscale cloud providers, I did a podcast recently with the guy who runs BizDev for AWS in EMEA, but the hyperscale cloud providers are actually providing a whole set of tools, not just applications, but tools to manage security, manage devices. Which just make it a lot easier for a small company like you, because you don’t want to build up a huge IT department and whatever, so your data goes into AWS IoT and you use the security features of that, which by the way, for our listeners, quick editorial, we helped develop the Device Defender with AWS.
Nick Earle (23:49):
We did the launch of it with them in Chicago, I think. At around the same time, 2017, actually we did the launch of a Device Defender with AWS IoT, so the SIM certificate gets a AWS IoT security issuing authority, which means you can get your certificates from AWS, it comes back over our network, into our SIM. And so we do, as you say, the SIM isn’t just about connectivity, it’s about security management as well. Which was important for you, especially considering the types of data that you’re collecting. There’s a lot of regulations around that as well.
Alex Nash (24:22):
Absolutely, absolutely. And one of the things we have with the hub is the hub doesn’t actually store any data.
Nick Earle (24:28):
Alex Nash (24:28):
So as soon as we get the data, we ping it on, we have a very small sort of buffer.
Nick Earle (24:33):
Alex Nash (24:33):
That wouldn’t survive a power reset, so that actually anything that’s stored on the hub as soon as you were to unplug it, turn it off, any sort of personal data that’s been stored there goes, and there’s no personal data stored on the hub either. And so we needed something that was really reliable, that could send this data up to our cloud to then analyze it, to interpret what’s going on, and then push it into the various places that it needed to go.
Nick Earle (24:59):
I want to get back to the point in a minute about your transition, because you’re actually transitioning to a platform company, which is very, very common, but we’ll come to that in a minute. But before we come to that, let’s keep filling out the pieces of the jigsaw, so now you’ve got some hardware, chosen your cloud platform, you’ve got the security. Now all you need to do is go and win some customers.
Alex Nash (25:22):
Nick Earle (25:23):
Otherwise, so how so what happened there and where are you now?
Alex Nash (25:28):
Sure, so yeah, we sort of had the hardware, we had the software, we pretty quickly started to develop a business development team. Largely from within our industry who knew the customers. And actually it was really, really positive because we would go to… Initially at our first customer group actually was what we called friends and family, and really it was around before we go to the local authorities, let’s really understand what family members want.
Nick Earle (25:55):
Alex Nash (25:55):
Let’s really understand actually, what does somebody want from our kind of system? We put probably maybe a hundred devices out there with various people. And one of the sort of interesting bits that came back is within our system, you have an ability to create a rule, so you can say, let me know if the kettle goes on at a certain time.
Nick Earle (26:14):
Yeah. Or doesn’t go on at a certain time.
Alex Nash (26:15):
Or doesn’t, absolutely.
Nick Earle (26:16):
Because they would normally make a cup of tea before 7:30 in the morning and it’s 8:30 or whatever.
Alex Nash (26:20):
Nick Earle (26:21):
Alex Nash (26:22):
Absolutely. And one of the things we learned, which was really interesting, which we haven’t factored in at the beginning was what we now do, so now when you create a rule, at the bottom we then say, if this event happens, does it reassure you or does it worry you? If a door opens in the middle of the night, it probably worries you. If mom makes a cup of tea in the morning, it reassures you. And because of this difference, we actually change how often we will let you know, so if you tell something that worries you, so if a door opens in the middle of the night, if it opens three times, we will let you know every time it happens and you can choose to escalate it to a email push notification text. If something reassures you, then it will just be displayed as a push notification and displayed in the app.
Alex Nash (27:10):
But it will only let you know the first time it happens, so if you say if mum makes a cup of tea between seven in the morning and 10, if mum makes a cup of tea at 7:10, we’ll let you know, but we won’t let you know every single time it happens up to 10 o’clock, because actually people get quite irritated that, well, I know mom has made a cup of tea. I’m not interested if she’s made now second and a third, so although it might be displayed in the timeline, we won’t keep telling you about it. But what you might want to know is actually by 11 o’clock, maybe it’s happened five or six times. And that’s a bit odd because that’s a lot more times than it would normally happen.
Nick Earle (27:42):
Excuse me. We’ve got 2000 customers and we get to see a lot of trends. And what you’re talking about here is mass personalization or long-tail personalization, but you’re personalizing it for the relatives.
Alex Nash (27:56):
Nick Earle (27:57):
Which is very clever. Other companies that do this, we have a few projects within Amazon and not the ring doorbell, but the ring doorbell, we have other projects, but the ring doorbell is starting to do that sort of thing, so you put the ring doorbell on and you can have motion… I mean, the sun comes up. Our daughter’s got a ring doorbell on the house and I was with her over the weekend and she got a notification and it was basically the sun moving and the trees in the wind, and so it was so sensitive, she kept on getting notifications.
Alex Nash (28:32):
Nick Earle (28:32):
But when someone comes the Amazon guy drops a parcel and puts it on her step. Now our house is on the road and someone would pinch the parcel. And then the next minute, the next door neighbor Joan arrives, who’s great. And Joan comes and takes the parcel in for her. That’s a notification she wants to know about, or obviously someone pressing the doorbell and to speak, so the idea of personalizing notifications and allowing the users to define the rules set, is a very smart thing. And encourages loyalty and suggestions. I guess you’re getting now suggestions on features when you look at the patterns of what’s happening.
Alex Nash (29:09):
Yeah, we absolutely do. And one thing we’re working on now is a more formal process to give that feedback, so after we have the rules, the next thing was to develop smart alerts, which is why we learn changing behavior. We currently have a sensitivity setting, but actually what we’re now developing is the ability to give feedback. It’s actually, yes, this was useful. Or actually, no, I don’t agree that something was odd here and we can start getting the feedback. One of the things we learned quite quickly is data doesn’t tend to lie, so we can see that bathroom visits have increased or activity in the house has increased, but the feedback might be well actually, no, I think there is no issue here. It’s fine. And then we need to touch on some well why do we think it’s fine?
Alex Nash (29:51):
Oh, okay. Last year activities increased. But so has the amount of times the door has opened and closed. And actually the kettle has been made a few times, so actually there’s probably some other people in this property. Oh, and two motion sensors were triggered at the same time, so there must be two people in the property. They’ve got some friends around, so let’s treat this bit of data slightly differently now because there’s some friends around and they’re not alone anymore, so it’s how you sort of manage that. What the messaging is back to the customer, is really, really important.
Nick Earle (30:19):
You started off with friends and family, but your target market is local authorities.
Alex Nash (30:26):
Nick Earle (30:26):
And how are you getting on with that?
Alex Nash (30:28):
Really well, so we’ve been working with a number of local authorities to help develop the platform over the last few years. And in fact, in the last few weeks, we’ve just found out that we won a very large contract with a large local authority for several thousand of our units covering the adult social care, but also there’s involvement with health as well, so we’re really excited. Probably be working on the first scale deployment of a proactive, predictive approach to care.
Nick Earle (30:57):
And by that, Alex, are you saying that it would, in this contract, start to interface with other pieces of equipment that are in the home? I don’t know, glucose measuring or whatever, is that the sort of thing that you’re talking about?
Alex Nash (31:11):
Absolutely, so with this council that we’re working with, which I’ll be able to name later down the line, we will be connecting health devices into the system. We will be connecting other platforms as well, so within local authorities, many are now started to use digital care management platforms.
Nick Earle (31:30):
Alex Nash (31:30):
We’ll be able to integrate those care management platforms, so if somebody is using a different platform to log carers in and out, and to log what tasks have been done. Well, actually the family would love to know that information, so let’s pull it out of that system and push it into ours. It’s all those sorts of integrations that we are starting to do as part of this deployment schedule with this authority.
Nick Earle (31:53):
And again, one of the things, and one of the things our solution is giving you to do that is a whole suite of APIs, that you can then bring things in. But also you can actually take stuff out to take it either up into the cloud, or out into other platforms, or the other operators. And that brings us to that point that you mentioned earlier, which is sort of where you’re going. And the idea of, it’s still very, very fragmented. And what you’ve done is wonderful, but it’s still only a fraction of the possibilities in the care market, isn’t it?
Alex Nash (32:26):
Nick Earle (32:27):
Because, you have people checking out of hospital and the ability to… We have a customer Biofourmis who are creating what they call a healthcare wearable. They’re just going through FCA approval. And the idea is that rather than stay in a hospital bed, perhaps for five days, after an operation you go home with this device and this device will do the monitoring and it will upload, and you wear the device. And actually you could then wear the device for six months, two years afterwards and go about your daily life. But it’s got to interface with everything else. We have another customer, which is the world’s second largest paper company Essity in Sweden. And they are also the world’s second largest manufacturer of nappies or diapers as the Americans call it. And you mentioned urinary tract infections. They have a small sensor, wafer sensor inside the 20 bits of paper that makes up a nappy and the idea of a measure for care homes.
Nick Earle (33:28):
It’s the adult incontinence market, but you can predict the early onset of urinary tract, by looking at the chemicals of the urine two days in advance of somebody feeling the symptoms, and as you say, somebody with dementia might not even tell the carer, they have the symptoms because they then have the symptoms fall out of bed, go to hospital and often catch something in hospital that is actually worse than the urinary tract, so to the whole area of healthcare is very, very exciting with IoT, but it’s still very, very fragmented. And so I think your vision, what you were saying earlier is there’s a need for a platform, right? And I think is that your next big, well, you’ve got to win more councils.
Alex Nash (34:09):
Nick Earle (34:10):
But also at the same time, trying to establish sort of interoperability in the market?
Alex Nash (34:15):
Absolutely, so actually when we started, there just was really no hardware that could do all the different things we wanted. Now, a lot of the other providers in the market are starting to release new hardware, that’s digital, has got the ability to not just connect with social alarms, but other types of sensors as well, so like I said, we’ve got a platform and if you’ve got hardware, why don’t you integrate it into our platform, so that a local authority can pick what piece of hardware they want, but also recognize that whatever hardware exists today, in five years time, there’s going to be a whole bunch of new types of sensors, devices, hardware out there that doesn’t exist now.
Alex Nash (34:56):
And if you only tie yourselves to what exists now, you’re really limiting the capabilities, which is why a platform approach works really, really well. Because actually you can say, well, whatever comes along in five years time, we will work to integrate that into the platform as well. And as a local authority, certainly in the times we are now with component shortages, it’s incredibly hard to actually source maybe all of your hardware from the same company, so what a platform gives you is the ability to source different bits of hardware from different companies, but at a platform level, it all feels exactly the same for the carers, for the family and friends.
Nick Earle (35:33):
And it means the councils don’t have to bet everything on one supplier.
Alex Nash (35:38):
Nick Earle (35:39):
Well, there’s a whole range of suppliers, so open procurement, et cetera. It’s kind of similar actually approach to what we’re doing. We have our connectivity management platform, which we use will look at the devices that actually have our SIM in, but it is also able to report on devices and manage devices that have proprietary SIMs in it. And so this is-
Alex Nash (36:05):
Nick Earle (36:05):
The gardeners other are calling the next move is platform of platforms. You really want one platform, whether it’s in their home or in business, one platform, which everyone can connect to not proprietary platform, so it’s very much inconsistent with the movement that’s out there. Alex this is a great story. We’ve been going 45 minutes, I think, or so. And something tells me that maybe in a year’s time, this’ll be the first podcast where we have a repeat guest on, because the speed at which you are going and the speed at which you do stuff seems to be about 10x quicker, you do have a knack for bypassing and doing shortcuts. And I think that’s great. I think that’s very entrepreneurial. If I’m doing my maths, right. If you graduated in 2015, I think you’re still under 30. Would that be a…
Alex Nash (36:53):
Yes, I’m 27.
Nick Earle (36:55):
Oh my God, you make me sick. Well, I mean, congratulations, you’re very entrepreneurial. Built a very nice company, obviously with very good technology, but-
Alex Nash (37:04):
And with great partners as well.
Nick Earle (37:06):
Thank you, with great partners, but also what I was trying to get to is that, but solving a real world problem. I mean, everyone can identify with this and it brings technology to life. What do you do? Well, I solved this problem. And people go, oh, I get that. I understand the problem that you’re solving. And it’s a problem that needs to be solved, so it is a great story. One last question. If people have been inspired by this, which I’m sure they have and they want to get in touch with you, how can they reach out to you?
Alex Nash (37:36):
I’m easy to find on LinkedIn to just search for Alex Nash, or please send me an email, which is Alex.N@Alcuris.co.uk, and I’ll be more than happy to have a conversation.
Nick Earle (37:49):
Okay, so Alex is the CEO and founder, entrepreneur, and a man in a hurry, a young man in a hurry of Alcuris, A-L-C-U-R-I-S. I’m sure we’re going to be hearing a lot more about you going forward. Talking about hearing a lot more. This is, as we say, one of our episodes on the IoT Leaders podcast, and that we’re going to be looking for more people like Alex in the future that we’re going to be interviewing, and maybe we will get Alex back as I said, in a year’s time. Please listen to future episodes. If you need to reach out to me, I’m Nick Earle, so CEO of Eseye, that’s E-A-R-L-E. And if you want to send me an email it’s email@example.com, but with that, we’ll leave it there. And thanks again for a great story. I love the human elements to it, I think it brings it to life.
Alex Nash (38:37):
Nick Earle (38:37):
For everybody it’s those stories that really do make technology companies in particular come to life from the scribbling, the guy who suddenly got 600 million pounds of money, finding him, writing his email down, and by Monday you had a deal. It’s a great story, it just does not happen, so well done for that and good luck with your business. And thanks again for the partnership.
Alex Nash (39:02):
Thank you very much really appreciate it.
Nick Earle (39:02):
All right, we’ll leave it there. Thanks Alex.
Alex Nash (39:02):
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