Activ84Health (pronounced: Activate-for-health) is making waves in the markets of assisted living technology.[1] Winning the Active and Assisted (AAL) Living Programme’s 2016 Smart Ageing Challenge prize[2] with its Explorer, Activ84Health provides older people with the thrill and training of outdoors cycling inside the safety of their home. Each user gets a personalised experience which suits their needs, ambitions and capabilities. The Explorer uses a cloud-based software coupled to a stationary bike and a touch-screen tablet to provide visual experiences of cycling, exploring any urban or rural environment by freely navigating through 3D street view images.

The concept behind the solution originated from Jan Smolders who whilst working in a care-home identified the potential for a technology solution like the Activ84Health Explorer in the market. His aim was to increase the quality of life of older people by improving their physical and cognitive functions in a fun and safe way. The young Belgian company he co-founded now focuses on institutional customers to offer a business-to-business solution. Activ84Health currently operates across 40 sites in Belgium and the Netherlands, selling to nursing homes, hospitals and psychiatric and rehabilitation centres.

The validated solution is deliberately flexible, easy to install and maintain, to ensure that it can be adapted to various locations or applications. All the component hardware that Activ84Health Explorer uses are commercially available and can be purchased from standard suppliers. The software is however entirely custom-built and developed using the principles of user-centric design. It was recognised early on that the success of the solution depends on the optimal alignment of technology and the needs and capabilities of older adults. Therefore the development of the solution considered feedback from focus groups with older adults from pilot sites. Activ84Health used its deep insight into the potential customer and end-user base to produce a valuable user experience, adopting a lean approach to create a unique platform on the market.

Getting the project off the ground however was not without challenges for a young company. With the AAL market is still in its infancy, it was hard to access financial resources as investment is often directed towards traditional care, cure and rehabilitation solutions. Nevertheless, Activ84Health has managed to grow its commercial activities beyond Belgium, thanks to the increased visibility offered by the Smart Ageing Challenge prize and reputable support partners such as Flanders Investment and Trade or Microsoft Innovation Centre. Activ84Health has developed international business partnerships and currently focusses on Sweden, the Netherlands and Austria with the hope to expand even further. Activ84Health is a good example of how to realize the potential of the budding AAL market, with the combination of research, innovation and passion to create a solution that will not only enhance the lives of older adults but also promote their independence and well-being.