People

Caavo built a universal TV remote. Now, it wants to help you stay in touch with Grandma.

The company has turned its Control Center hardware into a TV hub for senior living facilities.

Caavo senior living service

Caavo's latest is a TV-centric service for senior living facilities.

Image: Caavo

When Logitech announced this week that it was discontinuing its universal remote controls, Caavo co-CEO Ashish Aggarwal knew that the quiet days for his company would be over. Practically overnight, he started to get countless requests from dealers looking to replace Logitech's devices with Caavo's remote controls. "We are the only people left standing," Aggarwal told Protocol.

Only, Caavo isn't ready to meet that demand just yet. The company's supply chain has been severely disrupted by the pandemic, which effectively brought its retail business to a complete stop. "We have been out of stock for almost a year," Aggarwal said.

And while Caavo is currently gearing up to introduce a slightly upgraded consumer device next month, it also began to embrace a whole new line of business last year, repositioning its hardware as the heart of a TV-centric technology solution for senior living facilities. This pivot was in part the result of COVID-19, but it's also reflective of larger changes in TV and streaming, and the potential for TV screens to be more than just entertainment devices.

Checking in on Grandma

When Caavo's retail business all but disappeared last year, its developers tried to stay busy by experimenting with a number of different projects. The company developed a short-lived co-viewing app, and began to test combinations of its hardware with webcams, chat and other social features.

At the same time, Caavo executives noticed that some consumers were starting to use its hardware in unexpected ways. Early adopters had set up their parents with Caavo, and were using the company's cloud back end to troubleshoot TVs from afar during the lockdown. "It was what we internally called a 'remote remote,'" Aggarwal said.

Caavo began doubling down on this idea and started to develop an entire software platform based on its hardware for senior living facilities. The new system, which is currently being piloted in a few facilities, allows residents to control their TV with Caavo's remote, launch video chats with family members on the TV screen and access messages and events calendars for their specific community.

Family members can connect to their Caavo via mobile app for video chats, and share photos and videos. Senior living community administrators can use the device for wellness checks, and even connect the system to safety alert buttons, health sensors and more. The ability to bring video chat to senior living communities has especially been a much-requested feature during a time of social isolation, according to Aggarwal. "We are seeing an extremely huge pull in that direction," he said.

TV is being disrupted, down to the remote

When Caavo first launched its universal remote control in 2018, it did so with a simple message: TV was too complicated, and streaming was, in many ways, making things worse. Consumers had a growing number of devices connected to their TVs, including cable boxes, streaming sticks and game consoles, all with their own remote controls.

What's more, streaming was incredibly fragmented. Due to a conflict between Amazon and Google, there was no YouTube app for Fire TV devices. Apple users could only access the company's services on its Apple TV device, and a bunch of new streaming services were only launching on a small subset of platforms. If you really wanted access to everything, you needed at least two streaming devices connected to your TV.

Three years later, the world has changed a lot. Google and Amazon have made peace, Apple has licensed Apple TV+ and AirPlay to its competitors and the big streaming services have become available on almost every device. Plus, most streaming platforms have begun to abstract content from the app layer, making it easier to discover individual shows with universal search and recommendations.

As a result, there's a lot less need for some of the technology that Caavo was building. The company will deemphasize its own universal search feature going forward, Aggarwal said, and generally focus less on content. However, he also argued that consumers still are dealing with a lot of complexity, especially if they have A/V receivers or game consoles as part of their setup — a classic use case for universal remote controls.

Caavo plans to address some of those changes with the next iteration of its retail device, which will feature a similar look but upgraded internals. "In our mind, it is a subtle change," Aggarwal said.

The bigger change is that the company is now playing in two markets, and building out a B2C business with its new platform for senior living facilities. Caavo has been staffing up in India for this move, and raised some additional capital in December, bringing the total raised thus far to nearly $40 million.

And while Caavo will initially focus on the senior living community market, the company is also eyeing other hospitality industry opportunities, with the ultimate goal of turning TV screens into central hubs for entertainment, communication and more. "We started the company with the goal of connecting people," Aggarwal said. "The universal remote was just one piece of the puzzle."

Fintech

Election markets are far from a sure bet

Kalshi has big-name backing for its plan to offer futures contracts tied to election results. Will that win over a long-skeptical regulator?

Whether Kalshi’s election contracts could be considered gaming or whether they serve a true risk-hedging purpose is one of the top questions the CFTC is weighing in its review.

Photo illustration: Getty Images; Protocol

Crypto isn’t the only emerging issue on the CFTC’s plate. The futures regulator is also weighing a fintech sector that has similarly tricky political implications: election bets.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has set Oct. 28 as a date by which it hopes to decide whether the New York-based startup Kalshi can offer a form of wagering up to $25,000 on which party will control the House of Representatives and Senate after the midterms. PredictIt, another online market for election trading, has also sued the regulator over its decision to cancel a no-action letter.

Keep Reading Show less
Ryan Deffenbaugh
Ryan Deffenbaugh is a reporter at Protocol focused on fintech. Before joining Protocol, he reported on New York's technology industry for Crain's New York Business. He is based in New York and can be reached at rdeffenbaugh@protocol.com.
Sponsored Content

Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Enterprise

The Uber verdict shows why mandatory disclosure isn't such a bad idea

The conviction of Uber's former chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, seems likely to change some minds in the debate over proposed cyber incident reporting regulations.

Executives and boards will now be "a whole lot less likely to cover things up," said one information security veteran.

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

If nothing else, the guilty verdict delivered Wednesday in a case involving Uber's former security head will have this effect on how breaches are handled in the future: Executives and boards, according to information security veteran Michael Hamilton, will be "a whole lot less likely to cover things up."

Following the conviction of former Uber chief security officer Joe Sullivan, "we likely will get better voluntary reporting" of cyber incidents, said Hamilton, formerly the chief information security officer of the City of Seattle, and currently the founder and CISO at cybersecurity vendor Critical Insight.

Keep Reading Show less
Kyle Alspach

Kyle Alspach ( @KyleAlspach) is a senior reporter at Protocol, focused on cybersecurity. He has covered the tech industry since 2010 for outlets including VentureBeat, CRN and the Boston Globe. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and can be reached at kalspach@protocol.com.

Climate

Delta and MIT are running flight tests to fix contrails

The research team and airline are running flight tests to determine if it’s possible to avoid the climate-warming effects of contrails.

Delta and MIT just announced a partnership to test how to mitigate persistent contrails.

Photo: Gabriela Natiello/Unsplash

Contrails could be responsible for up to 2% of all global warming, and yet how they’re formed and how to mitigate them is barely understood by major airlines.

That may be changing.

Keep Reading Show less
Michelle Ma

Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol covering climate. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at mma@protocol.com.

Entertainment

Inside Amazon’s free video strategy

Amazon has been doubling down on original content for Freevee, its ad-supported video service, which has seen a lot of growth thanks to a deep integration with other Amazon properties.

Freevee’s investment into original programming like 'Bosch: Legacy' has increased by 70%.

Photo: Tyler Golden/Amazon Freevee

Amazon’s streaming efforts have long been all about Prime Video. So the company caught pundits by surprise when, in early 2019, it launched a stand-alone ad-supported streaming service called IMDb Freedive, with Techcrunch calling the move “a bit odd.”

Nearly four years and two rebrandings later, Amazon’s ad-supported video efforts appear to be flourishing. Viewership of the service grew by 138% from 2020 to 2021, according to Amazon. The company declined to share any updated performance data on the service, which is now called Freevee, but a spokesperson told Protocol the performance of originals in particular “exceeded expectations,” leading Amazon to increase investments into original content by 70% year-over-year.

Keep Reading Show less
Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Latest Stories
Bulletins