iGuard Home Solutions: Fighting the Risk of Unattended Cooking Fires

By Mark Ogilbee posted 08-24-2023 08:12 PM


With its patented proximity sensor platform, AgeTech Collaborative™ startup participant iGuard Home Solutions eliminates a major threat to aging in place: cooking fires started by stoves left on accidentally. With its ability to monitor and record stove usage and kitchen activity, iGuard can also provide peace of mind for family members knowing that their loved ones are active and safe in their homes. 

To learn more about the company’s innovative solution, we spent time talking with CEO Ken Deering and CMO Jon Landers.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 


What is the need or problem that iGuard is addressing? 

Jon: Fires from unattended cooking are the No. 1 cause of home or residential fires. This is a concern among many adult children with older parents; they’re wondering, “Is mom going to be OK?” Our solution, iGuardStove, takes that risk off the table and helps aging adults stay independent in their own homes — and we do that without using cameras, so we’re not infringing on their privacy or dignity. 


How does the device work? 

Ken: You unplug your stove from the wall and plug it into our unit, which has an automatic electric shut-off. That’s attached to the control unit that has a motion sensor. If the stove is on but the motion sensor doesn’t detect any motion in the kitchen for five minutes, it starts a countdown and will shut the electricity to the stove off.  

Jon: We have a version for gas stoves that uses a solenoid-activated gas valve that shuts off the flow of gas. It can also detect unburnt gas, and it has a sensor that will cut off power to the stove so that when you try to turn it on, there won’t be an explosion from the unburnt gas.  


The product also has features designed for caregivers? 

Jon: Adult children or caregivers can set the unit to do other things, such as to send them an alert or text message when their loved one walks through the kitchen in the morning, so they know that their loved one is up and about for the day. They can also set it to send an alert if it has not detected motion by a certain time of day. The unit can track late-night wandering so that caregivers can check in with their loved one the next day to ask if they’re having trouble sleeping. It also gives you a record of stove usage so you can see when the stove went on and off and track changes in users’ behavior. 


Can you say more about the proximity sensor?

Jon: The sensor detects motion in a cone shape of about 120 degrees; the further away you get from the kitchen, the wider the cone is. It’s a sophisticated sensor — for example, it knows the difference between a cat or child moving through the kitchen, versus an older adult moving around. Another feature is that when it shuts off the power to your stove, it only shuts off one pole of the power so that it doesn’t disrupt the stove's clock and other settings. And once an adult returns to the kitchen, all they have to do is hit a reset button to resume stove usage. 


What’s the story behind your passion for preventing unattended cooking fires? 

Ken: I was a customer of iGuard before I joined the company. When my dad passed away in 2000, my mom told my sister and me that she wanted to age in place in her home. At the time, she was vibrant and loved to travel, but later we discovered that she was having some mild memory issues, and the doctor told us we needed to address it.  

I did some research and learned that forgotten cooking fires are a very serious danger, and they become progressively more of a risk the older someone gets. I’ve been in tech since I was a teenager, and I thought, “There must be a proactive solution for this.” So we put iGuard into her home, which allowed her to age in place for much longer than she would have been able to otherwise. Later, when she was in palliative care, she told us how important it was for her quality of life to stay in her home. 


Do you have other customer success stories you can share? 

Jon: We get feedback from our users who say things like, “I used to call my mom every morning and ask, ‘Are you up?’ — and that would set the conversation off on the wrong foot. Now, I wait until I see that she’s turned on the stove. Once she’s had time to make coffee, I can call and say, 'Hey, how's your morning going, mom?'” So iGuard is helping to change the dynamics by allowing people to see what’s going on without being intrusive. 


What are the next steps for iGuard? 

Jon: The next step is a smaller, sleeker version of iGuardStove with a more sensitive proximity sensor. It will have a timer for extended cooking times for when you want to make soup or something that requires simmering. It’s also going to have a robust mobile app so that caregivers don’t have to view the data on a laptop, and professional care providers can keep track of multiple clients from one app. 

I used to work for a startup that helped people move or downsize into assisted living, and I know that the Baby Boomer bubble is coming in the next decade — and there isn’t enough housing for them. Where are they going to go? iGuardStove will become more and more important because it will help those older adults age in place. 


Visit iGuard Home Solutions’ website to learn more.