Co-opting the smartphone revolution for the elderly

An Israeli company has developed a platform that will put the 55+ crowd in charge of their data

An Israeli Arab speaks on a cellphone (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
An Israeli Arab speaks on a cellphone (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

For many people, smartphones have become constant companions – sources of information, communication centers, and even safety nets, enabling them to contact others for help when they’re in a jam. Not everyone can benefit from smartphone use, though; many elderly people have a hard time learning how to use these devices, either fearful of new technology, or intimidated by different ways of doing things.

Such individuals need to be gradually co-opted into the world of smartphones, says one Israeli company. And next week, Jerusalem-based UIU will be displaying its “co-opting technology” at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, with a special technology designed for the smartphone “have-nots,” providing them with an easier way to use their devices.

UIU’s technology allows users to set up their phones with large, grouped displays of contacts, messages, apps, and other content elements. UIU users can set up their phones on a secure website (or have someone do it for them), grouping data into single screen panels that can be accessed with a swipe. Thus, users can split their contacts into different screens, with one for family, one for friends, another for business contacts – and access each one separately by swiping the screen on their smartphone. The groupings allow for bigger font displays on the screen, making it easier for elderly individuals who may have vision problems to view the screen. The phone’s data, as well as its screen configurations, are backed up on the site, and can be restored with a single click.

UIU was established in 2011 and operates at an incubator belonging to Jerusalem Venture Partners. The company says that it is in discussions with several major mobile operators to develop versions of the platform for their customers.

The UIU platform and application is currently available for Android devices, but apps for other phones are in the works. In addition, the technology can be used to create specialized phone interfaces not just for over-55’s, but for kids, the disabled, or businesses looking to create a more controlled cellphone environment for employees. It could, said UIU, help cellphone service providers open up new markets that they had been unable to reach in the past.

UIU CEO Amir Kuperweiss said the idea for the system came to him very close to home – from observing his and other parents who just could not figure out how to use their smartphones. “When we started working on adding the platform to devices, we realized that there were many other groups that our platform could help.”

Uri Adoni of JVP’s technology incubator said that “UIU provides a simple but effective solution to solve a major problem in the market, both for consumers who are locked out of the benefits of the world of content on smartphones, and for operators who are losing out on a major market. We think this will benefit both sides greatly.”

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