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Help at the touch of a button: An interview with Buddi

In March, NHSX launched TechForce19 in partnership with PUBLIC, AHSN and the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government. A month later, 18 companies were announced as winners of the TechForce19 program and began testing their digital solutions across the UK. In this interview we spoke to Ro Murray, VP Connect at TechForce19 winner Buddi, to hear more about the company’s TechForce19 journey deploying the Buddi Connect app to help the elderly and vulnerable through Covid-19.

1. What does Buddi do and why did you embark on this venture?

Buddi is a British SME that has been developing ground-breaking personal location technology for the health markets since 2005 and is used by health authorities and private individuals throughout the world.

The company is a much-awarded, high growth, innovative technology company and a member of the Future Fifty alumni. It is led by Sara Murray OBE, founder of Confused.com, and has successfully been using technology to provide care for the vulnerable for many years.

We embarked on this venture to help vulnerable people remain independently in their own homes for longer, with the peace of mind that someone is there at the touch of a button. Our range of products reduce the need for additional care, delay the transition to residential care or simply bring peace of mind to our customers and their loved ones.

2. How does your solution help the vulnerable and isolated?

Our solutions help the vulnerable and isolated by connecting them to their friends, families and carers and reassuring them with the knowledge that help is available at the touch of a button.

Our newest solution, Buddi Connect, is a smartphone application that enables people to securely stay in touch with those for whom they care. Using the Buddi Connect app, with or without a Buddi Wristband, individuals are able to share alerts with a safe group of emergency contacts known as connections. The Buddi Wristband has an automatic fall detector and panic buttons, which can raise an alert during an emergency. Private, secure messaging between the individuals’ group of connections means that sensitive details, such as door codes or key holding information, can be shared to aid the response. During an alert, connections can see the last known location of the individual. This allows them to see who is physically closest and enables the fastest response. Calls can be made directly through the app.

Individuals who do not own a smartphone can use their Buddi Wristband with a Buddi Clip. The Buddi Clip and Wristband is our most established solution, currently used by private individuals around the world and those cared for by Local Authorities across the UK. The Buddi Wristband communicates alerts through the Buddi Clip to emergency contacts or our 24/7 Buddi Support Team. The Buddi Clip also has panic buttons for emergencies, but its main function is to locate the individual and enable two-way voice communication when help is needed. The Buddi Clip is fitted with a roaming SIM, meaning that it can be used out and about, and also abroad. Alerts can also be set up for the clip to notify an individuals’ emergency contacts if they leave or enter “Safe Zones”, or even if they don’t move at all.

3. How has your company adapted to tackle Covid-19 related challenges?

When Covid-19 hit, we knew we wanted to do something to help the vulnerable and isolated, and now more than ever realise the importance of being able to connect with those we care for.

Many vulnerable people had not had the day-to-day interaction with loved ones and carers that they depend on, so we made our service instantly available to anyone with a smartphone who wanted it, free of charge, without needing a Buddi Wristband.

4. Can you tell us more about how you’ve deployed your technology as part of the TechForce19 challenge?

As part of the TechForce19 response, we developed the Buddi Connect app to work as a standalone solution, without the need for the Buddi Wristband. This provides instant access for anyone with a smartphone and internet, needing a straightforward solution during the outbreak.

If someone needed help and didn’t know how to ask, or was unable to, all they needed to do was press the button on their app, and within moments their connections knew. If “alert” was too strong a word, then they could “buzz” to let their connections know they were there and thinking of them, and their connections could do the same.

We also built in the ability for organisations, such as Local Authorities or healthcare providers, to send messages to select groups of users by postcode. This enabled targeted informational updates to be shared, a useful tool that we believe will be used by organisations that we work with.

The updated app went live in mid-April, available for anyone with an iOS or Android smartphone and free of charge until the end of the year.

5. Have you learned any valuable lessons during this period of change and uncertainty?

At Buddi, we believe an enormous amount of reassurance comes from knowing that help is available at the touch of a button for both the user and those who care for them. In fact, during the trial, 94% of our users said they felt more reassured in the knowledge that help was available at the touch of a button through the Buddi Connect app.

Governments spend millions every year on home care calls, so by providing a service which enables people to check-in and confirm they are ok, this number could be drastically reduced. Carer time could be more effectively used, focussing their attention on those who need it most. People who are in need of attention would have a faster response, meaning that the cost of care would be lower. Communities could provide more support for the vulnerable, such as responder services for those who need help, rather than Local Authorities fulfilling this role.

By embracing technology, we will be able to meet the needs of the ageing society faster and more efficiently and we will be able to offer better quality of life as a result.

6. Advice for GovTech founders?

Selling services to the government is a lengthy process, so you need to be prepared to be very patient. Expectations are extremely high, documentation is onerous and financial rewards are limited. The real reward comes from the personal satisfaction in playing your part in enabling the government to provide high quality services that you can be proud of.

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