Tuesday, October 16, 2012

messageQube: Social Connectivity for Seniors

Like most seniors, Rob Sweeney's 83-year-old mother does not use text messaging or email. Sweeney wanted for her to easily stay connected with the rest of the family, so he invented the messageQube, a small wireless printer that receives and prints text messages and images. The 4.2-inch cube, which runs on the Sprint network, is “high-tech communication disguised as a friendly piece of paper.” Each unit has its own phone number, allowing friends, family, doctors, and other contacts to send messages to messageQube owners via cell phones and the messageQube web, iPhone, and Android apps. The machine also has a phone book feature that not only identifies the sender and prints their name and number along with their message, but prevents spam as well.

Aside from enhancing social connectivity for the older population, the messageQube can also be used for birthday and anniversary reminders, family news, and medication reminders, which users can confirm they have received by pressing a flashing green button on the printer. The messageQube, which utilizes thermal paper and does not require any ink or setting up, retails for $199.95. A monthly subscription of $19.95 includes 2,000 text messages and 100 photos sent from the apps. Because its firmware communicates via SMS, FTP, and HTTP, messageQube is ready to use straight out of the box; it only needs to be plugged in.

Sweeney's mom and aunt now use the messageQube daily. Based on the research his company has done, the device has a potential user base of 30,000 to 50,000 seniors. And that's just the consumer market. According to Sweeney, the commercial market presents more opportunities. This includes uses in health care, education, restaurants, and government. Based in Parkville, Missouri, messageQube is now working with clients and distribution partners to expand its reach. The four-person company has raised $800,000 in seed funding.

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