Smarter Care & The Internet Of Things

This morning I attended a SPHERE talk by Bharat Bedi about the Smarter Care in Bolzano project. The talk addresses the question of “how can smart computing help people stay in their own homes for longer?” with details of  a case study made in the city of Bolzano where there is a rapidly ageing population.

Two approaches were identified, firstly Telecare, including brain training, physical exercise and video interaction with care staff, and secondly “wellbeing sensors” to monitor the home environment. The  smart sensor approach was elaborated on in this talk.

Sensors included carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, smoke, methane, temperature, humidity, water and motion. These were gathered and sent from a central computer hub that served multiple homes. The information from each home is gathered to create a profile of ‘normal behaviour’ so an alert can be raised if the data deviates from the norm. Behaviour that could be determined from the data included detecting the regularity of mealtimes through monitoring motion. Tools were developed to help the ‘training’ phase of looking at new data, with the following process being taken:

Annotate Events  Recognise  Create stories

Technology wise, Z-Wave wireless communication was recommended over ZigBee for gathering the sensor data in the home and a small ‘eye’ sensor unit was shown that looked pretty nifty. Home automation technology has apparently moved on since the Bolzano project so that rather than mains-powered devices, battery powered devices that last for years are now available.

The main aim of project was to provide a ‘peace of mind’ to the residents of the home that have been wired up, so that they know that they are being watched over. In addition they had access to their own data streams using tablets. The use of this data for insurance purposes was discussed.

Key outcomes included:

  • Two thirds of the elderly participants reported an improvement in their quality of life.
  • A 31% saving to the Bolzano City Council for the cost of related care for the elderly.
  • 80% of the participants felt more secure and wanted to maintain their membership in the system.

In my opinion, this project had similar difficulties to those we face in the Tangible Memories project, where although beneficial ideally face-to-face contact is ultimately better, and there’s the possibility that if the system works too well, then face-to-face contact may actually be in danger of decreasing.