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38 : UTC Startups - series II

Following suit to Series I presenting just some of UTC’s start-ups, we offer our readers the Series II which will continue on UTC’s WebTV facility and via our social network pages. They indeed are the living proof that UTC through it’s a la carte pedagogy and its training/research continuum enhances the maturing and personal development of all its students, encouraging them to express and release their creative and innovative talents.

38 : UTC Startups - series II

An e-pad tailor made for Senior Citizens

Smartphones and pads are terrific tools when it comes to keeping contact with our friends and family. But their utilization is still often a complicated matter for persons who are not very familiar with the handling of new technologies, for example, senior citizens. Consequently, they are cut off from having simple communications with their family. It was with this challenge in mind that François Lerebourg created the Facilotab, specially designed for senior citizens.

 

"It was around a year and a half ago that we began thinking about designing a tactile pad for seniors, when I realized that my Grand Mother was a bit deaf and lived far away and so communicating became increasingly difficult”, explained François Lerebourg, a UTC graduate. “Many people offer tactile devices to their elders, thinking that this would facilitate contacts. But the truth is that smartphones and pads are complex devices to operate and tactile features are highly disturbing when users are not familiar with them. Consequently, the seniors give up and their devices end up forgotten in a drawer”.

 

The company CDIP, founded by François Lerebourg and his family, in the editing sector for over 20 years, for software packages used in the field of genealogy and photography, decided to design a pad especially for the senior segment. “Our aim is to get someone who has never touched a computer or a pad before to use our device immediately. More than just a pad device, Facilotab is an assembly of several essential, basic services: a message system, photo archiving, access to Internet and various memory and logic training games,” explains François Lerebourg.

In order to have a pad that is accessible to all, the whole process had to be rethought, from the tactile function to use of virtual key-boards, or as François Lerebourg confirms: “People who have never before used a computer, are often ‘put off’ by the standard AZERTY keyboard layout. So, we offer with Facilotab the possibility to have a simple alphabetic order keyboard. We also moved the control knobs away from the device edges so that users can hold the device easily; the action zones are clearly identified and delimited by large knobs. There is no risk of making a false move! Moreover, the ‘home’ switch is always accessible no matter where the person is in the pad operations”. The device comes with two instruction manuals which have been drafted in such a way as to be understood any people with no knowledge about digital practice. For example, one of the guide-books teaches the senior how to create and install an e-mail address, without outside assistance. The mail-box is also simplified: the incoming messages are also displayed in text format (to avoid advert pop-ups); it is also possible to filter the senders (only those on an approved list) to avoid spamming mails. Moreover any attachments are automatically filed in the photo archive folder so the user can find them easily. “The pad has been designed as an always-active device placed on a table top”, adds François, “and a large visual message notifies the incoming messages”. The pad comes with a metal support base. If the elderly person needs help, beyond the guide-booklets. “Close friends, relatives have a number and a programme to be installed on their own PC to be able to remotely control the pad, if needed, or to accompany the senior to surf on Internet. These close contacts can also receive a message when the pad needs to be recharged”, reveals François Lerebourg. The O/S of the Facilotab is Android® and the user can then download a series of “apps” from the “Store”. “It is also possible to activate a Skype® account, preloaded on the pad. Our aim is that the users progress as they discover the contents and possibilities of the pad, starting with some basic functions, and they can then proceed with new “app” downloads”, indicates François. From a purely technical specification, the pad is an ‘Archos’ given, as François puts it, that “the starting prices are quite competitive and allow us to propose the Facilotab for a reasonable price”. The latter is 245€ for a 10” WIFI model and 325€ for a 3G model. “We already have received orders from Belgium and from certain French Townhalls who wish to equip their senior citizens. We would now like to see our device offered in smaller computer stores, so that the potential senior users can go in and test them”.

CDIP, a Family Business

CDIP, above all else is a family business, explained by François Lerebourg: “It all began when I helped out with a computer science club, with my Father, when I was still going to the Lycée. I wrote a small software routine for people who were genealogical fans which proved very successful and in 1992 we set up the company CDIP (Centre for Development of Personal Computing Skills) where my Mother and brother still work. We then installed several Internet and mobile ‘apps’ that are references in genealogical research. In parallel, we launched two other software packages: one to archive and handle photos and one for virtual scrapbooking. And now we are busy developing a version of our genealogy software as an ‘app’ compatible with the Facilotab!”