QVNTRA leverages balena to scale Aging-in-Place IoT solution


The United States Census Bureau shows more than 54 million people were over 65 in the US on July 1 2019, and it’s projected that by 2050, that number will increase to 83.7 million. With a rapidly aging population causing an increase in demand and an ever-shrinking labor market, senior living providers are seeking to scale their resources and services through technology.

QVNTRA, an emerging senior living passive monitoring company, is looking to tackle the aging population crisis by empowering senior living providers and the care professionals they employ to be in the right place, at the right time with edge technology. By provisioning ambient sensors within senior living houses, QVNTRA’s system is able to monitor for elderly resident falls, UTIs, incontinence, and dispatch alerts to staff in real-time.

With hundreds of sensors currently in the field, scaling from one to many facilities and continuously managing those deployments requires a lot of tactful network and infrastructure considerations at the edge. With balena, QVNTRA is able to rapidly provision their IoT solution and provide 24/7 contactless monitoring of the wellness and safety of elderly populations across the USA.

Edge technology and fleet management makes it possible to better take care of our seniors

“After previously running a commercial cryptocurrency mining operation in Denver, CO, balena’s concept of fleet management registered right away,” said Thyge Knuhtsen, Co-founder of QVNTRA.

“When scaling from managing one to many machines, you’ll quickly find yourself underwater with disparate hardware, OS images, software configurations and deployment methods. balena helped us by codifying what edge development should look like and providing a completely open (Linux based <3) platform to build our technology product.”

QVNTRA leverages balenaOS to manage the networking, compute, and storage for all deployed customer edge gateways. A lot like managing a bunch of modern day virtual machines, balena provides a user-friendly interface for new users to get started. “I’ve been using a Linux Workstation for ~10 years now but do not have the technical chops to pass as a systems administrator. What gave me the confidence to chase this idea was how easy balena made enterprise fleet management through their intuitive UI”.

balenaOS distributes a hardened and refined Linux image with only the software businesses need for orchestrating edge gateways with no filler. “The software preloaded on balenaOS images is extremely well documented and regarded as gold-standard in UNIX hardware manipulation (i.e. NetworkManager for Networking, Yocto Linux for Kernel, etc…)” said Thyge. “Balena let’s you go as deep as you want to into your edge stack, but is also totally content with letting you hang out at the surface”.

Eldercare at the edge: Connecting all beds

During their pilot period, QVNTRA proved their technology with volunteers in the DFW and Denver metroplexes. They often encountered volunteers who did not have broadband internet.

Without an internet connection, the sensors that they would provision throughout a unit would be able to communicate with the edge gateway, but never any further.

“I would say every 3/10 individuals we worked with did not have internet access, and we needed these individuals more than they needed us,” said Thyge. “We had to solve the connectivity issue or we didn’t think we had a feasible business.” QVNTRA would go on to leverage balenaOS’ ModemManager, unlocked-Huawei USB dongles and an AT&T: IoT Data Plan to include any volunteer into the QVNTRA pilot program without constraints.

When QVNTRA got into senior living facilities, they learned that access to an enterprise’s network is not guaranteed. “At some point we just got tired of the bureaucratic process of requesting access and IT scrutinizing our port usage / traffic, all for when we got access to the network, for the connectivity to not be reliable enough for our SLAs. Cellular makes sense for our clients and Balena makes it an enjoyable feature of our product to maintain”

With over 28,900 assisted living communities and nearly 1 million licensed beds in the United States today, QVNTRA is confident in taking on the entire addressable market with their new found cellular autonomy.

QVNTRA x balena

To manage fleets of edge gateways that manage 100’s of sensors over the long-term, QVNTRA needs to work with partners that are flexible, adaptable, and can help them deliver innovation quickly. QVNTRA started with balena and has never looked back.

“As a young Hardware-as-a-Service company, we have a lot of moving parts that require attention and balena just doesn’t,” said Thyge. “Without hyperbole, I sleep much better than I did because I can count on rock-solid reliability and availability from our edge stack. Where much of our competition is moving their legacy hardware to the cloud, we take solace having architected our product on what balena maintains as the bleeding edge.”

This trust has allowed QVNTRA to continue to push the limits of their technology. For example, spending a lot more time pushing the limits of the Zigbee IEEE 802.15.4-based standard and developing novel sensors for the senior care market.

“Balena has already solved the edge stack problem. We are grateful we don’t have to spend cycles here and instead, deliver a new standard of care for senior living providers.”

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