SMART Homes Promise Extended Independence for Seniors

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Several new technologies promise to soon make seniors’ and home health care providers’ lives much easier. While the past ten years has seen the advent of many helpful technologies such as medical alarms and similar devices, homes of the near future promise radical new SMART technologies that will go much further.

For example, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Washington have recently announced the development of a system of sensors to transmit information about a houses’ electrical wiring to a central monitoring point.  The wiring is capable of broadcasting information about temperature, air quality, humidity, airborne toxins and more.

The system, called Sensor Nodes Utilizing Powerline Infrastructure (SNUPI), is one more step forward in the development of SMART Technology. The really neat thing about this technology is that it uses much less energy than any previous generation of sensor systems.

While there are obvious safety implications for seniors (as well as all homeowners), possible other applications of the technology include use by medical professionals to remotely monitor vital signs and send information to a central database. This would of render patient-activated medical alarms obsolete.

The SNUPI technology is only the latest in a growing list of technologies that can be used to keep seniors more independent and less of a worry of family and medical professionals.

In 2009, a SMART home system was prototyped at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Pioneers of Science Event. Some of the features of the home included the following:

  • sensors to monitor and shut off taps and appliances like stoves and irons, etc.
  • reminders via a sound system using a familiar voice (for example, a reminder, activated by a sensor in the door knob, asking Alzheimer’s patients not to wander).
  • automated text messaging to tell family members if the senior has left the house or is showing any other signs of distress.

Most caregivers acknowledge the value of keeping seniors in their homes: an ideal place of comfort to them where they are most likely to remain happy and healthy. SMART technology promises to keep seniors in their homes longer where they will remain independent and safe.

The system prototyped by EPSRC came with a bill of approximately $18,000 USD, although, like all technology, it will likely be progressively more affordable.

The SNUPI technology will be prototyped this year at the International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing in Denmark, September 26th to 29th.

This is a guest post by Jim Huinink, Director of Web Strategy for comfortlife.ca, a website covering the world of retirement homes in Canada, including retirement homes in BC as well as a wide variety of helpful information for seniors and their families, including surveys of the cost of retirement homes and much more.

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