HomeEXCEPT, a Halifax company that uses thermal sensors to monitor frail elderly people, has won its category in an international competition for innovation for senior citizens.

Washington, D.C.-based AARP Inc. – formerly the American Association of Retired Persons – announced Wednesday that HomeEXCEPT had captured the US$10,000 first prize in Health and Safety Awareness category in its AARP Innovation Champion Awards. The American organization, which has 38 million members and represents the interests of people over 50, offered prizes in six categories.

HomeEXCEPT calls its product “Smart Sensors for EXCEPTional Peace of Mind”. It is a platform that allows family members to monitor loved ones by using thermal sensors used to track movement.

“The AARP Innovation Champion Awards was created to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary efforts of companies that are aligned with AARP’s core mission – to empower people to choose how they live as they age,” said Anne Marie Kilgallon, AARP’s Vice President of Enterprise Strategy and Innovation. “We received hundreds of submissions and the decision was not an easy one, but in the end our panel of judges agreed that HomeEXCEPT Inc. best exemplified this mission.”

Headed by businessman John Robertson, HomeEXCEPT set out help monitor seniors living in their own homes.

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The solution is a series of sensors that are placed in each room in the house, and accompanying software that analyzes the senior’s movements and understands if something is amiss. It can tell if the individual is late getting out of bed, wandering at night, absent for a prolonged period, or has had a fall. It can distinguish between pets and humans, and it can tell if a stove is left on or a window’s left open. The longer the system runs, the more it understands the person it is monitoring and the more effective it is.

Robertson said in an interview Wednesday that winning competition more than anything tells the team that experts believe HomeEXCEPT is developing a product that will meet demand in the market.   

“The big thing for us is validation,” he said. “When we entered the contest, we went into it saying, Let’s get some industry experts to look over what we’re doing and see if we’re on the right track. And they came back and said hands down we are.”

He added that by winning the competition, HomeEXCEPT reps will be flown to Washington, D.C., to tour the AARP innovation lab and meet the organization’s Chief Innovation Officer.

HomeEXCEPT recently closed its first round of financing, raising a total of $365,000 in equity funding, comprising $260,000 in direct investment and $105,000 in convertible debt.  The company is now applying to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency for a loan through the agency’s Business  Development Program and export credits from Export Development Canada.

Robertson said the company has completed tests of the first version of its product and is waiting to receive the sensors back from the manufacturers. He expects to be shipping the sensors in clients in Nova Scotia and the U.S in the next two to four weeks.