CAN Go smart cane handle
Stretching as far back as our cave-dwelling prehistoric ancestors, the humble walking stick has always been a go-to mobility solution for anyone experiencing walking difficulties.
Elegant in its simplicity, universality and attainability – it’s hard to imagine how such an elemental, life-sustaining tool that has spanned the millennia could possibly be improved on, or why anyone might want to try.
Well, San Francisco-based CAN Mobilities has spent the past few years weighing up these considerations and what it has come up with, in the form of the CAN Go cane, represents an exciting attempt at blending the old with the new by giving a timeless classic mobility aid a 21st-century makeover.
First and foremost, the CAN Go is an ultra-comfortable, sturdy and sleekly designed cane hewn from aircraft-grade aluminum and sporting a soft, non-stick non-slip grip for enhanced safety.
However, it’s underneath the hood that the magic happens for the revolutionary walking aid that was announced to the market last month and is now available for pre-order for delivery in the fall.
Built-in sensors – gyroscopes and accelerometers enable the cane to track activity levels and gait speed while high-level connectivity is achieved through an incorporated SIM card for voice calling and a GPS locator.
Crucially, this recording of vital medical data allied with enhanced safety features works seamlessly in the background once the device has been registered online while voice calls are activated through a single button press on the panel near the cane’s handle.
Fit for the 21st century
Over five years in the making, the CAN Go is the brainchild of founder and CEO of CAN Mobilities Ahmad Alghazi.
Alghazi witnessed the experience of his grandmother as she increasingly struggled with her mobility and transitioned between different aids. This strengthened the entrepreneur’s resolve to come up with novel ways of marrying the simple walking stick with software and new and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence.
Through years of rigorous user testing, the ultimate aim was not only to increase independence for the one in three American seniors over the age of 65 who require mobility assistance but also to provide their caregivers, be they family members or medical professionals, with real-time data-driven insights and reports on how their mobility and gait parameters might be changing over time.
Sizeable market segments are also comprised of younger patients living with conditions that can affect mobility including Parkinsons’ disease, multiple sclerosis and arthritis – in addition to individuals recovering from surgery or accidents.
Features aside, Alghazi insisted on one further must-have in terms of the deliverables – the product had to look good.
“My dream was to make the device the safest and the coolest ever and it being the coolest really is very important to me,” says Alghazi.
“Once upon a time in history, a cane used to be a symbol of wealth and status but nowadays, it has become medicalized and stigmatized. Having a beautiful design like an Apple or a Tesla, not only improves how folk feel when they are using it but adoption and compliance too,” he continues.
CAN Go charging on wall bracket
One of the challenges often leveled at inventors nowadays, as the term “smart” is increasingly used as a catch-all prefix to jazz up traditional rudimentary tools and devices, is that of novel products being overengineered.
After all, surely the ultimate genius of the cane lies in its elegant simplicity?
Nonetheless, Alghazi enthusiastically stands by the CAN Go’s carefully constructed feature set.
“The whole market discovery for mobility aids has traditionally been very under-innovated, with this very primitive device going as far back as the caveman era,” he says.
“However, we are not just adding technology to a product for the sake of it. Just because it exists. That’s the wrong approach to designing products.”
He continues, “The better way is to really understand the customer’s need and pain points. Yes, there’s an insane amount of engineering that’s gone into our cane but from the user’s point of view, it’s just as easy to use as a regular cane.
“What’s new is that, with our device, we are now able to better quantify mobility and this can have multiple applications in confidence building, exercise training and potentially fall prevention too.”
An end-to-end mobility solution
CAN Go certainly has strong proponents with former Apple VP, the guru of human-centered design and author of The Design of Everyday Things Don Norman describing the device as “a must-have for anyone that needs a cane to stay mobile and safe.”
Perhaps the CAN Go’s greatest scope for expansion lies, not just in its cutting-edge technology but in its financing model too.
Currently, the device is available to pre-order for $299 with a free 12-month subscription to the multiple data services, which will then be charged at $20 a month thereafter.
This subscription model will allow the company to add value by packaging in related products and services such as access to online exercise classes as part of CAN Mobilities’ wider mission towards becoming a one-stop mobility hub to assist in both telehealth and patient education.
In the future, the cane’s gait analysis algorithms may become so sophisticated that they will be able to point users to specific classes to address biomechanical issues that have been identified and trackd, or maybe even send fall risk warnings and remediation advice days or weeks before a fall appears likely to happen.
The outline of this aspiration towards providing individuals with mobility issues greater access to education and information can already be seen within the company’s insightful blog which explores topics from the health benefits of using a cane to tips on staying active and recovering from falls.
There are also plans to link voice calling to a specialist concierge service that can help with tasks like summoning an Uber or ordering groceries.
“We want to be the company that can unlock mobility care solutions across the board for our customers in the same way as Square unlocks multiple financial solutions or how a Roku remote control unlocks streaming solutions. We want to try and attend to all of our customer’s mobility needs in a single space,” Alghazi says.
How effectively this can be done in the long term remains to be seen but one has to presume that funneling that journey through the most familiar, simple and easy-to-use mobility aid in the history of human development has got to be a pretty sound starting point.