Michael Cullen, Cofounder of Novalte, a monitored Smart Home Accessibility Technology company is no stranger to working with those who face everyday accessibility issues.
Born and raised in Ireland with 5 years professional experience working as a control engineer and then +10 years experience in healthcare as an accessibility consultant, Michael had not only the passion to make a positive change in the industry, but had the expertise to solve a big problem.
While Michael was working in Ireland as a Control’s engineer, he worked in Guatemala building two Hydro power stations there, it was there that he learned the positive effect technology can have in changing people’s lives. It was here that passion to drive change in the world with technology was ignited.
When he came to Canada in 2008, with the economy suffering and fewer job opportunities Michael was faced with possibility of needing to return to Ireland to find work. With a strong conviction that there was a bright future for him here in Canada, he decided to stay and took a job he didn’t love to make ends meet.
While sitting down having a coffee in Yonge and Dundas sq, he saw a gentleman struggling to walk with drop-foot, a condition that can affect someone after having a stroke. He had just purchased the first iphone at the time and knew that there was enough technology in that little device to help that lad walk and questioned “So, why aren’t we doing it?”
Michael made the career change to work as a rehab engineer at a kids rehab hospital in Toronto, “Bloorview Kids Rehab” and then a couple of year later changed to work at an adult rehab hospital. He was working part-time as an accessibility consultant and made the leap of faith to do it full-time and that is when Novalte was born and since has help over 350 people to live independently over his tenure in this field
One of the common challenges with applying tech solutions to accessibility problems is that each individual requires a custom solution.
“Seems like a ridiculous business model, having to customize a solution for each client… but I knew how technology could automate the process and allow us to provide solutions to hundreds and eventually thousands of people.”
Instead of trying to create a one-size-fits-all solution, Michael decided to build a system that is fully reconfigurable and modular that can be tailored to each individual’s custom mobility challenges via software remotely.
The technology works to create an “accessible smart home” for those with mobility concerns so they can live more independently in their daily life. Leveraging existing smart devices as well as Novalte’s own hardware, they have a single solution that combines these disjointed pieces together and make sure it works with their 24 hrs remote support.
“Picture the hub looks something like a cable box, it is installed in the customers home by one of our dealers. They also install the other parts of the puzzle to enable someone with mobility issues to live independently based on their needs. This is usually a combination of Novalte’s other peripherals and off the shelf consumer smart devices.
“The system can be either accessed by the user’s voice or by an accessible switch for individuals that are non-verbal. Once everything has been setup for the customer the system is connected to Novalte’s server which enables them to troubleshoot and change the system remotely. The Emitto system has the ability to do minor troubleshooting automatically. The system is designed to work with or without the internet, but once the Emitto detects that it doesn’t have connection to the internet it will automatically turn off the modem for a period of time and then turn it back on.”
Michael stated that the remote troubleshooting is their market differentiator. He said that while smart devices make the lives of abled bodied individuals easier, it enables a person with mobility challenges to live independently. So, when these devices that they rely on to get through everyday stop working it can really impede daily life for them. The Emitto takes all of this into account.
Novalte received a $100k from March of Dimes Canada to do a pilot study using their technology. The idea of the pilot study was to show that by using technology to improve quality of life for individuals with mobility challenges, organizations that provide attendant services can operate more efficiently.
It was joining the AC Jumpstart program that Michael says had a direct correlation to the company growth that occurred and continues to happen. “The ability to ask questions about what to do next in a strategic manner from experts that could guide us, instead of stumbling through it all ourselves had a significant impact on our business, and we are so grateful for it.”
In addition to growing the team in 2019, Michael looks forward to more pilot studies in Halifax, Winnipeg and Vancouver as well as building in additional functionalities to enable Novalte clients to live more independently.
“We are also building the ability to control more security functions in the home. Often people with accessibility issues will leave the doors open all day long because care workers come and go… but that leaves them vulnerable. So having the ability to lock and unlock the doors and to only let certain people in and out will significantly improve security, and we are really looking forward to introducing this feature”
If you have any questions or inquiries about the platform or want to get in touch with Novalte, reach them at http://www.novalte.ca/contact
AC JumpStart is made possible by and investment from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and is delivered in partnership with Conestoga College, Laurier, and the University of Waterloo.