Thomas Serval is a serial entrepreneur, inventor and founder of CareOS, a company founded in 2018 to develop the first "privacy by design" smart hub for the bathroom. The result, the Artemis Smart Mirror responds to your image and voice commands to offer personalized health, beauty and hygiene suggestions. Since it's debut, the Artemis mirror has been honored at the CES Innovation Awards, winning this year's "Smart Home" category. Recently, Artemis has been seen onstage at the recent Google I/O Keynote where it displayed Google's new edge-AI technology Tensorflow Lite.
CareOS is headquartered in Paris, where it was founded as a spinoff of Baracoda, a firm developing connected devices. I connected with Thomas to learn more about the Artemis Smart Mirror and his thoughts on the future of smart home technology.
At first glance, the CareOS Smart Bathroom is like looking into the future. Can you tell us a little bit about how the idea for CareOS got started, and what made you want to bring all of these devices into the bathroom mirror?
We’ve been selling connected devices for personal care since 2014. To date, we’ve sold more than one million of them, and in the last five years, I’ve learned four important lessons:
- The bathroom is already digital, but mostly because people bring their smartphones with them
- people shouldn’t use touch screens or phones in the bathroom
- using an app for each device is frustrating, and
- there is an opportunity to connect the devices, other apps, experts and more in an open platform designed for personal care.
The mirror is already the most prominent display surface in the bathroom. The value of a smart mirror is making that time we spend looking at our reflection as effective as possible in boosting our confidence, monitoring our health and generally taking good care of ourselves.
You are a serial entrepreneur and longtime innovator across multiple industries-- Fintech (Younited Credit), Big Data (Flaminem), to entertainment (RadioLine). But recently, you’ve turned your attention to improving the “user experience” at home-- and in the bathroom (CareOS and Kolibree) and beyond. What has been overlooked about this space, and why is this area ripe for innovation?
The first thing I’ve already mentioned. The bathroom is already digital. People use their phones, which is a bad idea, of course, but also, many new products for the bathroom, from smart shower heads to water usage monitors to scales and far more, are connected. It’s time we treat the bathroom as a holistic and unique space with specific needs for management of digital information. Second, home decor is on a far different cycle from other digital devices. You might replace a computer every five years, and your phone every two. A new bathroom design may last 10 to 30 years. Any platform we might design for that room must account for at least 20 years of innovation. Finally, there are financial and safety concerns in the bathroom that don’t exist elsewhere in the house. Slips and other accidents occur there far more often than in other rooms, and keeping track of water leaks or unexpected electricity use can save thousands in repairs that take place before a bad situation becomes far worse.
What are some of the outcomes users have experienced from regular use of the CareOS smart bathroom mirror? Looking beyond the bathroom-- where are other spaces that could benefit from a CareOS smart mirror?
CareOS is still in its early stages, and will be available for home use next year, but we have built in features that improve the user’s well being over time. By looking at and gesturing to the bathroom mirror, users gain access to the information needed to evaluate and improve daily routines, experiment with their appearance and learn about their health. In addition to being a fun and intuitive way to care for yourself, CareOS is the new front line of preventive care, offering strategies for care where people first encounter potential symptoms thanks to the Preventive Healthcare Assistant which is able to detect subtle changes in the user’s health. For example, CareOS can monitor a mole on your back over the course of years to note size and color variation, and alert you when a visit to the doctor is needed.
As for other places we can provide value, we are already working with salons, spas, hotels and retail spaces about putting our AR and AI technology to use in helping their clientele explore new looks, learn about products and more.
CareOS is a unique device, but it’s real value looks to come from the ecosystem of partners that have come onboard to provide additional features. Can you speak a little bit about your partners, and what sorts of capabilities they’ve brought to the CareOS device?
Thanks to its growing ecosystem of leading brands in Health, Beauty and IoT such as Colgate, Roca, Wella (Coty Group), Legrand, Tefal Body Partner and Snips, CareOS offers a unique range of experiences as an evolving open platform. Other key players in the health industry believe in our approach, such as Essilor and Cardiocomm.
As I said, a bathroom design may last 30 years, and it is important that a digital platform for the bathroom stay open and flexible to include new innovations. By bringing data together from multiple connected devices, our AI can learn about connections between changes in weight and foot shape, for example to help alert the user to risks like diabetes. The more we can bring onto the platform, the more powerful ally it can be to users.
The bathroom is quite a personal space, that generally, we don’t let others come into while we are using it. Now, with CareOS, we have an ecosystem of services that are sharing this space with us. To protect users, you’ve mentioned how data privacy is something you “put first”. Can you speak a bit more about this, and what steps you’ve done to ensure that users are protected in this very personal space?
CareOS does put privacy first. At every step in designing the system, we started with respect for the user for exactly the reason you mentioned. The bathroom is typically the only room that has a door you lock to keep your own family out. The user can hide the camera and deactivate microphone to make sure his or her privacy is protected. He or she can also customize a mirror without any camera for added assurance. The data in the system stays within the mirror, and is not shared without well informed consent. When permission is given for data sharing, all data is processed locally and only summary data is then encrypted and sent out. Further, all data is encrypted using software and hardware security modules. It impacts not only the digital design, but the physical design of the mirror itself. We put the camera on the outside of the mirror so the lens cap can completely cover the lens.
CareOS is based in Paris. What are some of the benefits of the Parisian tech ecosystem, and what are some of the challenges that still remain for French companies in the AI/hardware space to go global?
AI technology has found itself on the hot seat, and not without good reason. With every story about AI tackling a new task (even solving Rubik's Cube in one second) there is a story of deep problems with the power we intend to give AI (like falsely identifying people of color). The public has concerns, and one of those concerns is that AI will be pushed into use without our knowledge in ways that produce unintended consequences for our privacy and liberties.
In Europe attitudes, legislation and legal history favors restraint over unhindered technical advancement. Here we find start ups dedicated to delivering the benefits of AI, but from a mindset that puts privacy before expansive capabilities.
What is next on the CareOS journey? What should we be looking out for?
We are busy bringing partners into our open platform for personal care, and there are many areas we plan to include for our commercial launch, including family wellness, beauty and elder care. There are so many ways a smart bathroom can improve our day to day lives and long term health, the partner network keeps expanding to include companies and services even we didn’t imagine when we started building CareOS two years ago.
Thank you Thomas and CareOS!
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