Mamma Mia! It’s Doro

Mamma Mia! It’s Doro

Chris Millington, MD, Doro

Chris Millington, MD, Doro

Doro PhoneEasy 610
Doro PhoneEasy 610

Doro is a company well known for its devices in fixed line and mobile aimed at the older population. Here, Chris Millington, managing director, spills the beans on the Super Trouper that is Doro.

In the 1970s, as Abba tunes spread from happening Sweden to a hip and happy world, a man called Claes Bühler in the south of the country started the company that is now known as Doro.

Seemingly as infectious as the catchy pop beats of top track, Dancing Queen, Doro took massive marketshare for fixed line products in Sweden and Scandinavia, soon spreading over to the UK.

Around 10 years ago the company started to develop an area in fixed line called core products, which focused on kit for people with sight and physical impairments. The company recognised that changing populations globally, with increasing numbers of those over 65 years of age, meant there was a need for communications equipment to serve these users.

Take a Chance on Me

Eventually, this area became the major focus of the business. Mobile came into the equation around three and a half years ago, and that area is now really taking off, according to managing director at Doro, Chris Millington.

“It’s remarkable, the challenges that over 65’s face,” explains Milllington. “Manufacturers are trying to make everything smaller, and now with the addition of touchscreens, the mobile doesn’t even look like a phone now; it’s a device. The mobile industry today goes after the youth market all the time, apart from RIM that almost always goes for business. So, a few years ago, we though if we’re providing a solution for the fixed line side, surely the same issues go for the mobile market.”

Currently, states Millington, over 80% of the over 65 population in the UK suffers from some sort of sight impairment, most commonly presbyopia, where the fluid in the lens of the eye increasingly crystallises in people from the age of 35, resulting in an inability to see things close up. Because of this, using a smaller phone is not an option for many people.

Another trend in this market is the increasing retirement age. As people are forced to work for longer, more will require mobile devices that suit their needs. “There will be a requirement for employers for bring technology to these people, both mobile and fixed line, so they can continue to work,” says Millington.

Doro is working hard in the area of mobile health. The company worked with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) and various hearing associations when it started out on mobile, to work out which font colours, including types, colours, sizes, and backgrounds, work best for which visual problems, and how best to make the sound quality of calls suitable for different users.

Millington notes: “Pretty much all of our development is focused on the aging market. We’re doing a lot more in mobile, which we’re really building up now and it is now being taken seriously as a market by the mobile networks.

“M-health is a very interesting area for us,” continues Millington. “There are high end discussions going on all around the world on m-health, which is especially important when you consider facts such as the over-65 population in the UK, which currently stands at 18% of our total population, will double in the next 20 years, and in 50 years will be more than 50% of our population. Already today, streamlining and reducing the cost of healthcare for this age group is vital. Now, chronic care and health maintenance is required for 80% of those over 65 years old in Britain.”

 

Knowing Me, Knowing You

Doro has already made advancements; the Doro PhoneEasy 610 includes a button that when pressed, tells a central call centre that X patient has taken X medication on time; if no confirmation comes through from the patient, the case is escalated, with a reminder text message and then a phone call from the call centre of required. That service will be launched later this year, and will appeal to healthcare providers and insurers, as well as some mobile operators, Millington says.

In February the company announced it was an industrial partner in a European Union (EU) funded research project working to create an advanced virtual user model for the development of adapted and easy to use products for people with special needs. The EU initiated the project with the aim of preventing the marginalisation of people with impaired vision, hearing and mobility, with the primary target people those over 65.

In the project, named VICON, Doro is cooperating with scientific institutions including the University of Bremen, Fraunhofer FIT, RNID and NCBI, to develop an Android interface for an Android device. Millington states: “Bringing out an Android device, rather than using our own proprietary platform, enables us to work in a wider field, bringing out more health care applications, which is an important area for us, and Android also enables us to work with much larger screens than is possible on our own platform today. We can then introduce touchscreens and other smart aspects that end users desire; no matter how old you are, you still desire things the same way you did as when you were younger. This is why we are also stepping up the look and feel of all our devices now.”

 

Money, Money, Money

The new Android device developed with the EU and its other partners should debut at Mobile World Congress 2012, says Millington, with a commercial launch due around April or May next year. “It’s very exciting,” Millington comments. “So we’re putting an awful lot of R&D into this project; altogether, 10% of our revenue. It’s quite a high figure, but the fine details of getting this right is very important in getting these devices accepted by older generations.”

Growth for Doro is on the cards, according to Millington. He remarks: “Our plans for the next 12 months will include continuing to build easy to use devices for the over-65s. We already have 1% of the total UK GSM device market, and 3% in Ireland and also in the Nordics, but in the UK I’d like to take that to over 3% by the end of December 2011. We also plan to continue to build our healthcare platform, and to launch more m-health devices later this year and early next. So quite ambitious plans!”