CallGenie started as a project in early 2017 to provide a way for Graham, the founder of Smart Life Solutions, to make Skype video calls to his elderly mother who suffers with dementia and mobility issues. Its evolution has been documented in Graham’s personal blog:
- Skype for the Elderly | Solving the Problem
- Automating Skype for the Elderly using Harmony Hub and IFTTT
- Home Assistant and Harmony Hub – the ultimate Skype Solution for the Elderly?
- CallGenie – “Skype for the Elderly”
Graham knew that his mother was of a generation that isn’t accustomed to using technology to communicate. She uses a phone and the remote control for her television, but mobile phones and tablets were left in drawers and never be put on charge. Graham, therefore, decided to draw on his IT background. He was convinced that in amongst the plethora of emerging smart home technologies there would be a solution.
Graham decided early on that his mother’s television was going to be the display and speakers for CallGenie. As with a lot of elderly people living on their own, Graham’s mother spends a significant portion of her day sitting in in front of her television.
The main components of CallGenie started to come together, an inexpensive Mini PC, a webcam and Skype. The next thing to do was to find a way to control the television from the Mini PC. After experimenting with a number of smart home solutions, including the Logitech Harmony Hub, Graham integrated HDMI-CEC into CallGenie. This was a game changer as HDMI-CEC enables CallGenie to know what state the television is in before a call. It also means that CallGenie can return the television to its original state after a call. This is pretty fundamental for an old person who might struggle to understand that they needed to switch inputs on their televisions, if they didn’t normally do it.
CallGenie finally became a product in the summer of 2019 and we took our first customers in the United Kingdom and Norway. Initially, we shipped a Harmony Hub with CallGenie as an option for sending infrared commands to a television that didn’t respond to certain HDMI-CEC commands. The Harmony Hub was replaced by the Flirc USB IR Receiver later in 2019 and we now ship it with all appliances.
Interest in CallGenie increased exponentially in March 2020 at the start of the Covid 19 pandemic in the United Kingdom. We have now shipped CallGenie appliances throughout the United Kingdom to customers with elderly relatives living in their own homes as well as in care homes.