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  • Writer's pictureStuart

Facebook Safety Check, telecare, and Mindings

There’s been much controversy about Facebook’s new Safety Check feature, in which users in the vicinity of a tragic event are sent a notification to “check in” and notify their friends that they’re okay.

Many people including Natasha Lomas from TechCrunch, have suggested that this is an cynical and completely unnecessary feature that:

encourages users to worry by using emotive language… to nudge a public declaration of individual safety, and if someone doesn’t take action… they risk their friends thinking they are somehow — against all rational odds — caught up in the tragic incident
the Facebook “safety check” paradoxically makes us feel like danger is our default setting… you may be better off checking in as safe after commuting by bicycle or driving on a motorway – both are more likely to result in a casualty

As the creator of social telecare service Mindings, it made me think about the notion of a “Safety Check Notification” in the context of telecare.

Telecare Notifications

The curious thing is that current telecare doesn’t actually let you know that your loved one is safe, and that’s the problem. The only time a family member get a notification is if something very serious has happened to their loved one – they’ve fallen, they’ve been motionless for hours, they’ve wandered outside a geo-locked area. That is a notification that is surely more unwelcome than one saying that someone is safe.

The chances of an average person being caught up in a tragic incident are minuscule. But the chance of a vulnerable senior having an accident at home is an everyday possibility. Everything from a serious fall – half of deaths at home for over 65s are a result of falls – to something as simple as forgetting to drink water and ending up in hospital with a urinary tract infection.

Because of the serious dangers facing vulnerable seniors, the default action is to fall back on the old telecare paradigm of “monitor, control and manage decline”. Whilst these devices can save lives, they do little to alleviate the daily worry about a family member living at home alone, and the constant feeling of anxiety every time the primary contact’s phone vibrates, in case “this is the one”.

Mindings and reassuring notifications

So, with Mindings, instead of notifying a family member or carer when something has gone terribly wrong, a family member can start and end each day by sending a text message or picture to their Mindings screen, and when the recipient presses the on-screen GotIt! button to confirm they’ve received it, Mindings lets everyone in a care circle know that their loved one is alive, well and interacting with the world.

By no means is Mindings a replacement for picking up the phone or visiting, but the reality is that most people don’t do that on a daily basis, but sending a friendly text or a nice picture of the first flower in their garden is something that can be done while eating breakfast, travelling on the train to work, or even when no-one is looking during a meeting! And the best thing is, Mindings has been proven to make its users happier!

The Equitable Transaction

Also, I feel that it’s an equitable transaction. Instead of installing devices that infringe on my Dad’s privacy, in order to know that he is okay, I need to interact with him, be it a phone call, or sending a nice picture or text message via Mindings. I send him a snap of his granddaughter or my latest DIY project, which makes him happy, and in return he lets me know he’s okay. Furthermore my Dad doesn’t have a piece of cold, sterile medical equipment in his home constantly reminding him that he’s old and vulnerable, instead he has a cool internet-connected digital picture frame that keeps him “in the loop” with what his family and friends are up to.

So, the next time you hear someone making a harsh comment about Facebook’s “Safety Check” notification, think about how nice it could be getting daily notifications from a technology-shy loved one, that they are safe and well.

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