IoT for The Aging: You're Never Too Old To Innovate

By Special Guest
Shrey Fadia, Correspondent
February 22, 2018

In the digital era of smarter cities and smarter homes, one of the biggest potential markets for IoT solutions is enabling aging people to remain independent, staying at home, and enjoying their lives without having to rely on their children, caregivers and expensive assisted living options.

Families spend more to care for older adults than they do raising children for the 17 years of life, according to Forbes. And as the “baby boomer” population grows, and people live longer thanks to advances in healthcare and healthier living, we’re at the threshold of increasing demands for extended care that can outlive a family’s ability to pay. Can IoT technologies help?

Many companies believe so.

New technology is not just for the next generation, but for every generation.

IBM is an example of a tech giant actively researching implementing IoT solutions to help aging people stay at home. Recently, IBM partnered with the city of Bolzano to install numerous sensors in the homes of older residents to monitor their regular routine. They have installed a touchpad for medicines, which will remind them to take medicines/tablets, for example. The focus of this project aims at increasing safety, reducing the stress and helping individuals and families with virtual assistants.

They have installed door sensors to note the individuals’ movement, bed pads to check if a resident is sleeping and detects if he/she falls down the bed, water and electricity sensors to monitor kitchen activities and more.

IBM has partnered with another tech leader, Nokia, with an initiative called “Aging in Place,” which focuses on monitoring the health of older people. The model consists of a full package of sensors, gateways and modules to determine the patterns of routine. Nokia’s IoT based watch, Nokia’s gateway and IBM’s IoT platform track patterns and generate warning notifications when something unusual occurs.

A handful of smaller, innovative companies like TruSense are building voice-activated solutions, to give the older adults peace of mind along with their families and caregivers. TruSense generates custom alerts based on policies set for the individual:  temperature is out of range, a water leak is detected, a vehicle is out of a specific area, health patterns based on body sensors, monitoring of falls and more.

IoT devices gather the data and evaluate the pattern from the data collected through sensors to take necessary actions.

Machine learning is also integrated with IoT when safety comes into account. When the water in a sink or shower turns too hot, it automatically changes the temperature considering the need of a resident by learning it regularly. Similarly, by learning cooking habits, when gas stove is on unintentionally, it sends an alert before releasing toxic gases which prevent from causing hazardous situations.

Qorvo’s Senior Lifestyle system is a pioneer, having been deployed for over 15 years in Europe to make lives of old adults simpler. This system learns the day-to-day activities of an individual, provides their status on the dashboard and sends alerts to their caregivers if something abrupt occurs.

Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant can listen closely to older adults, sensing the songs and stories they like, and begin to respond automatically to create personalized, lively conversations.

The idea of “Elderly Alexa” has been brought forward by Brett Krutiansky, computer science student, who built “Alexa Skill” that offers an interface between family members and old adults.

Alexa speaks to the older adult when its medication time and asks if they have taken their meds. Alexa’s friend responds with yes or no and messages are sent to their family members who have subscribed to the service.

Aligned with this, new caregiving technologies are also springing up. Take, for example, HoneyCo.

Its mission is to improve the level of care and safety of aging adults by designing easy-to-use technology for caregivers and families. Based in Nashville, TN, USA, they have two products:

  • HoneyCo Check – For care providers.  This enables the care company owner to monitor staff to ensure that they are providing the highest level of care.
  • HoneyCo Connect – For families.  Provides 24/7 insights and proactive alerts to a smartphone.

We will continue to follow this growing category of IoT, sensor-based solutions design to make everybody’s lives easier – keeping older adults independent and living at home, keeping their families in touch, and making caregiving and healthcare delivery more efficient and friendlier over time.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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