Frontier Networks: Providing Easy Access to Technology for Seniors

Frontier Networks - technology for seniors

Technology is everywhere. It is what brings people together. Frontier Networks is a company that provides the seniors an easy access to technology to be able to connect with their loved ones. They provide Telecommunication Services, Entertainment Services, and Personal Emergency Response Systems.
David Waldie, Managing Director, talks about the service offerings of Frontier Networks in the aging and health sector.

Transcription of the Interview:

Wayne Bucklar : Joining me on the program today is David Waldie. David’s the Managing Director of Frontier Networks. David welcome to the program.

David Waldie : Thank you Wayne.

Wayne : Now David, Frontier Networks is one of those names that doesn’t instantly tell me what it is you do. Give me some idea of the products and services that Frontier Networks offers and fill me in about the geographical footprint that you service as well.

David : Fair question. We actually started in mining, hence the name Frontier. But very quickly it worked out and in fact we’re asked to come and do work in the aging sector, these retirement villages and aged care facilities and found that that actually was a really exciting and interesting space to work for us and that’s where we’ve directed all our efforts. What we do is work with the operators of large retirement village portfolios and aged care portfolios and we fix the infrastructure, technology infrastructure in their villages and their communities and then deliver a range of services, purpose being to really try and deliver to the residents who live in those communities a seniors-friendly experience when it comes to technology. Technology can be pretty frustrating to use for all of us and infact even irrelevant for some folk, so our task is very much to deliver services that are very simple, easy to use so that I guess the elders in our community can make the most of them so they can get the benefit of how exciting and liberating these technologies can really be for them.

Wayne : And I guess because of the Baby Boomers, that’s going to be a big deal for decades to come. Do you find that this is a sector where there’s demand for telecommunication services?

David : Yes, certainly. The generation that’s living in these communities today are all very familiar with basic telecommunication services like obviously the telephone and a broadband connection. In fact they’re the fastest growing segment in social media today, surprisingly the over 65 community. You mentioned the Baby Boomers, Boomers are really yet to populate these communities in a big way. When they do come, certainly they’re widely regarded as more tech savvy and certainly sort of wealthier, more demanding community than generally the current community. But even so, we’re finding that the existing communities there have surprisingly high levels of adoption of not just basic internet use like mail, your banking, and your holiday but also downloading movies and Skyping their grand kids and there’s a high level of interest in these communities particularly in the independent living communities, really to make the most of their third act in life to make the most of that and a high level I think of appreciation that there’s a lot more to be gotten out of technology and there’s a lot of relationships that can be used to help develop, build and maintain. And really it’s a tool for defeating isolation and that’s probably the root enemy in all of these that we aim to sort of defeat if you like with the use of tech.

Wayne : Now David, the customers of Frontier Networks are the residents of these facilities or are they the facility managers themselves?

David : Okay so, our job is working in partnership with the village operators. We build the infrastructure and then design the services for the village operators then to sell to their residents. So we in the end are a wholesale supplier to the village operators and because of our I guess our expertise we tend to end up doing a lot more than just what a wholesale supply does. We end up actually developing really white label solutions that meet the sort of fit for purpose if you like the need of the particular community…

Wayne : Now I can imagine that goes beyond as you mentioned streaming movies and online banking, is that include distress calls and systems and security IP?

David : It does and so important part of what we do is deliver what they call over the top services which means as well delivering the basic commodity, broadband and telephony services we’re delivering the entertainment systems, so this is paid tv or iptv video, movies on demand, etc. So that’s just I guess how the community residents might want to spend their leisure time and then there’s the medical alarm and connect health services and those medical alarms like health services they start with basic emergency call buttons but it goes all the way to sensors and monitoring systems that really enable the village operators to just keep a tag on the wellness of the residents. And then there’s a lot of focus in these communities actually on the wellness rather on just the safety and full prevention but certainly the safety and full prevention is a minimum part of our service offering for these villages.

Wayne : David is Frontier Networks got across the spectrum of that seniors in aged care? Do you go into nursing homes and residential care facilities or is it facility… ?

David : Yes, we do. The solution, generally what we’re seeing in the development of sort of seniors housing today is a change in the models from just retirement village which is independent living or just aged care which is nursing homes and traditional homes. What we’re seeing is greater flexibility around the concept of continuum of care. So I might move into depending on my agents say I might move into a village if i’m say 65, 70, 75 when I’m still independent and healthy I might move into a village that gives me the freedom to move from independent living through to a service department environment through to aged care but I never have to leave that community but that’s one solution for me. If perhaps I’m 80, 85 and I actually lived successfully at home or aged successfully at home as they say and I’m now actually in need of high care, I might move into a facility that’s particularly well-catered to high levels of care for that stage of my life. So the strict boundaries between the types of regulated industries that we’ve seen are starting to disappear as the industry is responding more to the needs of the cohorts that are moving into them rather than responding to the ‘why’ in which the government is used to regulate the industries if you like. So that actually perhaps interesting opportunities for a supplier like us, you take for example the continuum of care model, part of the goal for someone who might move into a village rather to the young and early and then move right through their third act of life if you like inside that community the part of it the challenge for us is then to know for the whole of their journey. So we need to ensure there’s a consistency of their identity, we know their patterns of … behavior, we know that when they might. So for example, it’s really simple things like when they move from one type of living to another type of living, they can take their services with them without having to change anything – a phone number of plan of this or that, if I like it like this let’s just make it really easy for them and keep them within that package or bundle of services that they know and like. So that’s the sorts of in most simple way to describe the sorts of opportunities that the changing models present for us.      

Wayne : I’m with conversation with David Waldie, Managing Director of Frontier Networks and we’re currently talking to you from David’s Brisbane office. David do you operate right across Australia and in fact across the world, what’s the geographic footprint of your company?

David : So today we operate across Australia and we have villages that we’re servicing in most the states and territories of Australia. We’ve actually sited a project with a large group in New Zealand. The models in New Zealand are in some respects more advanced than Australia because they are not as regulated. They have had continuum of care for some decades now and in fact the penetration as a result of I guess the more flexible products in New Zealand is much higher. So in Australia about 67% of people over 65 choose to live in a retirement village, in New Zealand that’s 20%. So it’s interesting working in countries like New Zealand. UK and the US is somewhere between there 10% and I think there’s lots to learn from working in those foreign environments in importing and exporting ideas. Ultimately, the technical solutions are global and the opportunity is global, we look at markets like China with child policies that been has very low, there’s not a lot of opportunity for the children of the aged to care for them, heavy organized, the children have been heavily organized and there’s more grandparents than there are children. So the model’s a bit, if we have a challenge in Australia successfully looking after our aged community, the problem in China is many, many times more difficult not just because a larger population but because of those demographics. So we look at market like China and I think ultimately there might be an interesting place for us to work.     

Wayne : David for those people who are looking for you, what would they search for that would bring out Frontier Networks? Like it strikes me that the kinds of words that come into my mind to put into search are going to bring up every telecommunications provider of Australia and every service provider of Australia. What are the sorts of words that you think your customers will be searching for for you?    

David : I think the typical customer is either the resident in the village, searching for some way of solving for themselves in their community and they’d be searching for you’re right, simple terms like broadband, like emergency response system, medical alarms, those sorts of searches tend to find us also searches around retirement village technology or aging technologies. There’s a bit of a term floating around now called ‘connected health.’ Connected health is if you like where fitbits and wearables actually start to play a role in terms of providing data to your primary and secondary care providers, so to your doctor and if you’ve got a carer, your carer. So this concept of connected health is an important one and it’s becoming I think, really a segment in it’s own quite separate from wearables and quite separate from medical alarms. So we see connected health is starting to be sort of looked for more frequently as well older terms like telehealth, telecare and telehealth care, they’re all sort of older versions of what’s really now being described as connected health. So that’s what they, generally the residents and the village operator much are the same except the village operators’ interest quite often is to fix the infrastructure so they’re looking at searching for telecommunications, infrastructure, telecommunications service providers, service provider, broadband service provider they’re the sorts of terms that a village operator who ultimately owns the infrastructure and has the responsibility for they might be searching for.      

Wayne : David Waldie the Managing Director of Frontier Networks has been talking to me today about the offerings that Frontier Networks have particularly in the aging sector. David have you seen NBN impacting on your business? Is this become a competitor or is it became a facilitator, how does it fit in with what you’re trying to achieve?

David : Yeah, good question Wayne. The NBN as the National Broadband Network builder is also a host-only network provider and if you like provides the ubiquitous network solutions. Inside these retirement villages the solutions that they need are actually quite somewhat specialized. The villages themselves are bit of this mix between private networks and public networks, private networks because they’re running corporate type systems like emergency response systems, like networks to connect the carers and the maintenance folk etc. around the village and public networks because the residents in them need them for telephony and broadband, public broadband services. So they’re bit more specialized, so our role is I guess is an alternative to NBN in the villages but not always a competing alternative in the sense that a resident might choose to take an NBN service or might choose to take a service that the village operator offers. Other villages are choosing to have…instances where the villages or the village operators, the residents in the villages or the village operators actually choose to have a solution of the kind that we build instead of an NBN and that’s an option too…Ultimately though the NBN for us is the platform that enables us to get into every home in which a senior might live and that includes the 94% who choose not to live in retirement villages. Ultimately the technologies that we’re perfecting in the retirement village is equally applicable to someone who chooses to age in place and today that is the vast majority of older Australians. A vast majority of older Australians choose to live in their own home where they belong in their mind and they are very comfortable in those environments. Now our opportunity with the NBN actually is to use the NBN’s standardized national infrastructure to then deliver these over the top services and in doing so we’re a customer of NBN’s and we’re competing really with the other service providers. So for example you might buy a Telstra service and that’ll be a fairly general service available in Australia but if you’re after something that’s a little more seniors friendly and might offer some relevant technologies for your growing needs in terms of being bit of more peace of mind or more safety oriented then you might consider our services.   

Wayne : David Waldie, Managing Director of Frontier Networks it’s been a pleasure having you with us today and thank you for your time.

David : Thank you Wayne.

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