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Living independently in a smart home: Elderly care

Living independently in a smart home: Elderly care
For healthy and young people, living alone isn’t a big problem; for the elderly who couldn’t react actively as accidents happen, it becomes an issue. If they slip down in the bathroom or hit by a heart attack, their family members or children aren’t there right away to take care.

This not only brings fears to the elderly, as well as the people who care about them, such as their children, family members or friends. They would like to know if the elderly who live alone are safe and well.

Therefore, for the house of the elderly living alone, emergency and notification system reacting to accidents become very important.

Connected home technology can help

Imaging a house equipped with sensors – from bedside, kitchen passway to toilet flushes.

After a few weeks of installation, the cloud computing system connecting with the sensors in an elderly home knows this person usually gets up between 7:40 am to 8 am. If the sensor by the bed hasn’t detected a motion until 8:30 am, the system will automatically notify the family members.

Another data could also help. A sensor at living room and the other by the front door can work together and the back-end system will know how fast this elder person usually walk. When it detects that it takes much more time than usual, maybe something went wrong and the system generates alerts.

IoT aren’t just a term composed by sensors, “it’s about a service. It delivers to the elderly who want to live home alone,” said Cees Links, the general manager wireless connectivity at Qorvo.

More proactive systems exist as well. For example, communication protocol from ULE Alliance allows IoT devices to talk to each other. Unlike Zigbee or Z-wave, however, it transmits voices.
Rafi Zauer, Head of Marketing
at Essence

If an elderly fell down in the bedroom, this person can call for help, then the nearest sensor will receive this message and send it to voice assistant Alexa sitting in the kitchen for further actions, such as making a call with family members.

“IoT capability total changed how to protect the elderly,” said Rafi Zauer, the head of marketing at Essence. With the IoT technology, we can now remotely from anywhere in the world view real-time situation on a mobile app and receive alerts when something unusual happens. “All of these was not possible before we have IoT.”

They are different from a general smart home

Technologies used in the elderly home look like an extension from the smart home sector. However, they work in different fashions.

General concept of smart home currently focuses on users proactively adjust elements in their homes, such as lighting, temperature, sound or door lock.

As for the elderly homes, they need specific monitoring and they are less actively at home. It’s more about discovering the abnormal situations and reporting. “It’s called passive monitoring. Just to know that they are safe,” said Zauer.

Voice assistants that gradually become mainstream in the smart home sector, also play a different role in the houses of the elderly living alone.

In an usual smart home, a voice assistant might spends the most of time playing music, telling weather information and doing daily news briefing. In an elderly home, however, homeowners don’t need to manage their schedules with the speakers. They want to know the most if in an emergency situation, they will receive help by using their voices.

Although voice assistants receive great attention in the current market, “how to find more relevant application to use in the elderly home context, will be the next challenge,” said Zauer.

Possibility in the future

Such security systems for the elderly who live alone are provided in two ways.

Telecommunication companies and insurance companies provide these solutions in one of their offerings. They become the service providers because they know the user base and technology infrastructures. This channel offers pure home-care services.

The other channel integrates connected home devices and systems with medical devices. Solutions, for example, provided by Climax Technology connect medical devices with home systems via Bluetooth. Then, for instance, when a blood pressure machine detects unusual data, it can tell the connected home system and trigger related alerts to families and healthcare providers.

“Elderly care market is growing in double digits now, especially in Asia and countries like Japan,” said Zauer. In addition to finding more relevant applications in the sector, how possibly to create comfort with technologies for loneliness from living alone, will also be a big challenge, he said.

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