No Isolation (www.noisolation.com) is an Oslo-based start-up founded with the aim of reducing loneliness and involuntary social isolation through the creation and implementation of warm technology. Following the success of its first product, the AV1 telepresence robot, designed to tackle loneliness amongst children and young adults affected by long-term illness, the company has brought its second product, KOMP, to the UK. KOMP – a one button communication device, designed to connect seniors with their wider family unit – is currently used by more than 620 families in Norway.
For No Isolation, designing a product for seniors was a logical next step, following the success of AV1 and the proven efficacy of using technology to reduce loneliness. According to Age UK, 3.6 million older people in the UK live alone, with 1.9 million reporting feeling ignored and invisible. Further, in 2017, Eurostat reported that 1.1 million seniors are in contact with relatives just once a month or less. This lack of contact is exacerbated by the fact that the primary mode of communication for the elderly remains offline, and is conducted via the phone.
Discussion amongst the No Isolation team found that the key issue with having phone calls as the main mode of communication with the elderly was the need to schedule the conversations in advance, without an immediate way of communicating in the interim. Modern day communication devices and social media mean that the younger generations are able to communicate instantly – messages, videos and voice notes can be exchanged within seconds. The No Isolation team wanted to take the most useful elements of social media and introduce them to the senior population, in a product that would be designed specifically for them.
No Isolation worked with seniors, families and designers to understand exactly what features KOMP needed to work for its target user. Modifying existing technology wasn’t an option – No Isolation learnt that being exposed to a new communication tool without prior experience could be frustrating and initial failures, discouraging. As such, KOMP was designed to allow users to seamlessly receive messages, images and calls, rendering pre-existing or learnt digital skills unnecessary.
By removing all usernames and passwords, KOMP is immediately easy to grasp, giving seniors a sense of mastery over a piece of technology. During the research stage, the team also learnt that a lot of seniors experience leathery and dry fingertips when they grow older, due to decreased blood flow, making it difficult for them to use a touchscreen. As such, one large, graspable button was added to ensure ease of use.
By combining these elements with a high resolution screen and quality speakers, KOMP was created, ensuring seamless communication within the family, while focusing on the needs of seniors. The screen is placed at the senior’s house, and family and friends can connect and share content through an app. When the KOMP is turned on, the user will receive the messages, video calls and pictures sent throughout the day.
Karen Dolva, co-founder and CEO of No Isolation comments: “As a company, our goal is to make sure no one has to suffer from loneliness. We know that many seniors live alone and would like to have more contact with their family and friends. With KOMP, we want to bring all of the most magical aspects of modern day communication tools into one device, in order to ensure seamless communication between all family members, across all generations. In my own experience of using KOMP with my grandfather, I found that I was able to share so many more meaningful moments with him – images of my new home that he wasn’t able to visit, a snap of me having lunch with colleagues, and many more. Using KOMP, he was able to be a part of everything I did, filling the time between our monthly visits with near constant communication. By creating KOMP, we want to ensure that seniors feel like they are an active part of their children’s and their grandchildren’s lives, and to stop them feeling lonely, even when they aren’t physically with their family.”
KOMP was first launched in Norway in December 2017, to an overwhelmingly positive response from users. Now, more than 620 KOMPs are in active use, with an average of 7.2 people connected to each KOMP. To date, over 242,000 moments, encompassing photos, messages and video calls, had been shared through the device. In October 2018, KOMP won the NESTA Smart Ageing Prize, awarded to products and services using innovative digital technologies to support older people and allowing them to actively maintain their social life.
How KOMP works
When designing KOMP, No Isolation knew that they had to create a communication device that was simple to use and that was different to the tablets and computers currently available on the market. As such, KOMP’s key features include:
- Ease of use – KOMP requires no prior digital experience. The user can receive text messages, images and video calls, with all commands performed through one, easily graspable, button. The user can decline incoming calls by turning the button to switch the KOMP off. Accepting a call requires no action from the user – the KOMP simply counts down from 10, after which the call begins automatically – offering two-way video and audio. Unlike other devices and tablets, KOMP has limited functionality, requiring no complex commands from the user – all the content, as well as device management, is done through the accompanying family app.
- No touchscreen – Armed with the knowledge that many elderly people develop leathery fingers, KOMP has no touch screen and is operated by a single, easily graspable button.
- Advanced screen and speakers – Accounting for the fact that many seniors are affected by reduced eyesight, with some experiencing vision loss by as much as 80%, one of KOMP’s key features is a high contrast, 17” ratio screen, which features large text and clear images, making all content easy to see. The device also includes sophisticated speakers, which produce crisp, high-quality sound, making it easier to hear and understand the person on the screen.
- Customisable widgets – KOMP users can also benefit from integrated widgets – currently, users can view weather information and there is potential for future functionality, such as a clock and calendar function.
Just like the device, the KOMP family app is intuitive to use:
- Familiar interface – The family app has a similar layout to other messaging services, making it simple and straightforward to use.
- Personal invitations and secure streaming – An unlimited number of invite-only members can share moments through the app, giving everyone in the family the ability to communicate with the user. Additionally, No Isolation only tracks metadata, and never shares data with third parties, meaning that all content is completely secure.
- Group-chat capability – An interesting by-product of the KOMP app has been that it has encouraged closeness not only between the user and the family, but amongst all family members, across generations. The group-chat nature of the app means that all family members feel up-to-date with each other and more involved in one another’s lives.
KOMP is very easy to set up, relying on a WiFi connection in the home. However, if the senior does not have WiFi, a mobile broadband connection is also sufficient to start using the device. KOMP is now available to rent or buy in the UK, costing either £39/month (minimum 3 month contract subscription) with an up front rental fee of £99, or £75 monthly subscription for eight months, with an upfront cost of £299 to purchase in full.
The KOMP app is compatible with smartphones and tablets operating iOS (9.0 or later) and Android (4.4 or later).
Founded in 2015 by Karen Dolva, Marius Aabel and Matias Doyle, No Isolation’s first product, AV1, was launched in 2016 and is currently helping close to 900 children and young adults across Europe. Partnered with the Norwegian Cancer Society, the University of Oslo, Swedish-Finnish telecom company Telia, and several high-profile Norwegian hospitals, No Isolation received its Seal of Excellence from the European Commission in 2016. Since its introduction to the UK market, No Isolation has become a leading voice on the topic of loneliness, being featured in the government’s loneliness strategy in the autumn of 2018. The company currently has a presence in the Nordics, UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands.