"A very useful, friendly companion for people living on their own to help them through their day and to provide reassurance to their family "
Sentai is a new type of technology to help people who live alone to remain independent. Using a sensor, an app and an Amazon Alexa, Sentai can do all sorts of things to provide useful companionship to an elderly person, and reassurance at the touch of a button for family members.
While it is especially designed for those who live alone, there are plenty of features that can be useful to any family who have older parents that don’t live with them. Sentai talks to the older person mainly through Grace, one of the three personalities. Grace interacts with them in a calming, clear and friendly tone – sometimes you forget she isn’t a real person in the room!
We ordered the Sentai and put it in the hands of Kay and her family. Kay is 88 and lives at home independently with her husband Derek. We also tested it ourselves with Kay to get a proper idea of how useful this kind of tech might be and whether the Sentai is worth looking into.
On the left the clicker used to activate Sentai and the movement sensor on the right
The Sentai Sensor (bottom left) that can detect movement
The Sentai Hub that you just plug in somewhere and forget about
The Click to Talk button that the user has to press to talk to Sentai
Because Sentai isn’t a one-trick pony, unlike other reviews we’ve broken this one up by each feature and have described Kay and her family’s experience and their thoughts.
This was possibly the most useful feature for Kay and her family. Like many old people she (and Derek) have a few different types of medication that keeps them running smoothly. Kay’s family used the app to enter the the name of the pill (or at least what they called it “Purple Round Pill”) and when it needed to be taken. Grace then popped up at that time, reminded Kay it was time to take the pill, and asked them to say when they had taken it. That way Kay’s family could see on the app that Kay had taken it and at what time.
Grace (and so Sentai), also reminded Kay for anything else Kay’s family thought might be useful. For example when it was time to take the bins out, 30 mins before the cleaner was coming, that they should ring the GP in 10 mins or that they had an appointment the next day. Reminders are completely customisable as Grace simply says what you’ve asked her to when you’ve set it up for the reminder to occur.
"For me this was the most useful thing Grace did. It's hard enough remembering what day it is sometimes let alone which pill I have to take on an empty stomach, 30mins before food. I didn't have to write anything down or remember - Grace just let me know what and when "
Adding medication reminders is easy
For Kay’s family, movement notifications on the app were a revelation. No more worrying if Kay hadn’t answered the phone or if they hadn’t heard from them that day. In one instance, Derek stayed home while Kay went out with family. When no one had heard from Derek all it took was a quick check of the app to provide reassurance that he was up and about. The sensors are small, and easy to place anywhere in the room. They come with sticky pads and screws.
For families this might be the most important feature. We think to make the most of this feature it is worth getting at least 3 sensors so you get more information from which room they are in. e.g. one in the bedroom, living room, and kitchen. The app does get a bit cluttered with movement notifications but we'd rather that than to not know.
What the family member sees on their phone
For those that live alone the scariest thing is not being able to get emergency help when needed, for example after a fall. This is especially the case for older people who don’t feel comfortable using a mobile phone. Having Sentai means that users can get a message directly to all of their familys phones, telling them exactly what they need. To test this Kay needed to long-press the clicker. Sentai then asked her if she needed help and to explain what was wrong so she could get a message to her family. Her family then got a notification on their phones saying what Kay needed help with and whether or not she could reach the phone.
We don't have a landline in our living room, and the phone is actually quite a long way away. If I needed help it would certainly be a reassurance that I needed to only press one button before being able to just talk about my problem and then feel reassured that help was on its way.
The family members will see this on their phone
Whenever needed, Kay can click the button and tell Grace that she’d like eggs, milk or anything else added to her shopping list that appears on the app. For families who do shopping for an elderly relative this makes the process a whole lot easier.
In the morning, at bedtime, and throughout the day, Sentai can check in with Kay and make sure she’s doing well. Her family get a notification on their phone that she’s checked in and everything is good.
Sentai uses Amazon’s Alexa smart speaker (bought separately). The good thing is that you can still use all of the Alexa features like playing a radio show, telling the weather, setting timers and much more. It can take some time to get used to activating and speaking to but can be very useful.
The set-up process is pretty simple. If you're setting up an Amazon Alexa at the same time it can take 15 mins or so, but the Sentai set-up is clear and you are walked through every step. We did have some connection problems with the Sensors but it was easily fixed.
This is probably the biggest challenge with Sentai as many of our older generation will not have any experience interacting with things like this. Like any smart speaker, Sentai / Grace works best with loud, short and clear statements. Several times, Kay found that Sentai hadn't understood or heard what she had said. We think this would be less of a problem if the Alexa is placed close to where the user usually is, for example on a table next to their favourite chair.
The app is clear, simple and bright. It can be a little glitchy sometimes but overall it worked exactly as intended. It was easy to add medication and other reminders and the colour coded alerts made it clear if there was ever anything to worry about. The process to being adding as a additional user could be improved as you are logged out during the process.
Second to none. A few times we spoke to the customer service team for minor hiccups and they were brilliant.
“Overall I think it is very good. It’s as near as you can possibly get to having a helper in the room with you – which for people who live alone would be very useful and comforting.
The best thing for me is that is does everything through a human voice. It is comforting and clear. While it takes a few times to get used to Grace just popping her metaphorical head in whenever, I have got used to her now. It is also the most sensible way for people of my age to communicate with tech.
I’ve found the reminders very useful although I think I might need to have at least two Alexas throughout the house as I can’t always get to her to hear what she is saying or to respond to her in time”
The Sentai is £49.99 with monthly payments of £9.99, which we think is really great value. This doesn’t include the Amazon Alexa or any additional sensors but they are one-off purchases.
We think it is great value because it solves a few problems in one. It can be used like a personal alarm (£170 +), a smart home monitoring system (£350+), a pill reminder system (£20) and it does it all in a way that breaks up the day for lonely people with a friendly voice. It can delay the need for extra help or care and keep older people living independently for longer, while providing reassurance to families.
Sentai are offering you to trial it for free for 3 months along with a free kit (worth £79.96), then £9.99 monthly subscription. The kit includes the Sentai Hub, Sentai Clicker and one Sentai Sensor. This doesn’t include the Amazon Alexa. Additional sensors can be purchased for £9.99 each.