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Getting connected using a tablet computer: product review

Getting-connected-using-a-tablet-computer-headerWe regularly hear how iPads and tablets are all the rage for the internet-savvy older user for keeping in touch, entertainment and online shopping. But what if your parent is relatively new to the technology and is feeling overwhelmed? Or you’re concerned that they’ll fall prey to scammers if let loose on the internet? We’ve taken a look at one tablet system that aims to answer those fears.

Getting started with tablet computers can be pretty difficult for novice or nervous users who don’t have help always at hand. The aim of the Respexi system is to make it easier for an older person to access really useful apps like Skype and urgent assist alerts while someone else takes care of all the controls and housekeeping at a distance.

Respexi is effectively another layer on top of a standard Galaxy tablet computer. This limits the apps that can be accessed but the choices are quite versatile so the Respexi can be used in many ways:

  • To keep in touch through filtered and controlled email and Skype.
  • As an entertainment centre with a radio and a photo gallery which can be updated from a distance
  • As a shopping tool – but only if you actively turn on internet access
  • As a caring aid with urgent assist and alert buttons, and a facility for carers to check in and out when they visit.

We reviewed an early version that still had some issues but many of these are being cleared up in the next update. Sight and Sound Technology, who developed the Respexi with the benefit of experience in technology for the blind, is committed to continuing development. Updates will be carried out remotely so there is little for the user to do except accept them.

So here’s what the Respexi does now and more developments are promised.

Management

The Respexi is built around a Galaxy tablet but is a complete environment that the end user – in this case your parent - need never leave. They use touch screen buttons to choose what they want to do initially. Some of these buttons will take them into other apps with their standard interfaces such as Skype or email.

The end user doesn’t have to worry about managing the system. All of that is done by authorised users – say you and other family members – via the Respexi web site.

Messaging

Your parent can use email and Skype, but you decide who is allowed to contact your parent and whose messages go straight into the bin. This feature aims to protect your parent from spam completely. Incoming messages are notified by a popup on screen.

Reminders and diary

You can set diary events and reminders from the web site. Again they will appear as popups. Diary events, such as appointments, stay visible until they’re dismissed or deleted. Reminders – such as take pills or put bins out – stay on screen for half an hour. You can be alerted if events or reminders aren’t dismissed.

Photo gallery

Your parent can use the Respexi as a digital photo frame. The version we tested had challenges with photo sizes but Sight and Sound say they’ve fixed this now. You can now load photos from the web site and send them directly from your phone so you can keep your parent up to date with all your travels.

Help in a hurry

There is a button ‘Assistance’ to get help, for use in an urgent situation (they do not consider this to be an emergency call) and this will send a text and email to those who can assist.

Radio

Your parent can listen to a number of pre-set internet radio channels at the touch of a button. Internet radio quality can be variable and stations can disappear for a while, and we seemed to have more problems than most, but potentially it’s a nice feature to have.

Shopping

In the early version we tested it was not intended that users would use the web. However, reviewers have asked that there is an option to browse the internet and shop. The web site user can control whether this feature is allowed or not, so if you’re concerned about your parent’s understanding of the web you can keep this switched off.

Carer function

If your parent has a carer to call you can make use of the sign in and sign out button. We think this could be very useful but we’re equally pleased that if your parent doesn’t need a carer this button can be hidden away on a second screen.

Connection

If your parent only has a standard phone line at the moment you will have to consider how they’re going to get connected. Installing broadband is the obvious way to go. Sight and Sound suggest a friendly neighbour may be willing to provide access to their wireless network though we’re not sure we would recommend this route. More modern senior living complexes may well included access to a wireless network.

Our view

We like the versatility of the Respexi that means your parent can use it as a communications device, to surf the net, as an entertainment centre and to call for assistance.

There were quite a few issues when we first tried the Respexi but we understand that our feedback and that of many others has been taken on board and the next release will fix many of these.

We also like that the company are exploring many different ideas for extending the Respexi’s capabilities to suit different users. So updates, for example, can be turned off if your parent would prefer not to be dealing with changes to their familiar interface.

If a fully-fledged tablet could be a bit daunting but your parent would like access to email and Skype for example then the Respexi is worth a look.

Cost

The Respexi costs £399 plus a £20 per month which gives full support from a dedicated team, insurance, Buddy service and upgrades to the system.

Exclusive offer

Tell Sight and Sound that we sent you and you can enjoy 50% discount on your support fee for the first year.

Find out more

View the Respexi on www.respexi.me. To take advantage of the WTGO offer call Norman Lilly on 01604 798010 and mention that you saw the Respexi on When They Get Older.

If you’ve found this article interesting you may enjoy:
How to help your parent use the internet
Buying and installing broadband
Our guide to avoiding loneliness

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