Cognitive Computing

Aging and the Internet of Caring Things

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We’re getting old and living longer. Most Americans, in fact, want to live to be 100. In many countries, there are more elderly people than children for the first time in history.

This is creating a societal crisis as many countries face the challenge of supporting an aging population with increasing costs of healthcare and decreasing numbers of caregivers. Helping people live an entire century will depend heavily on enabling this demographic to better manage life’s vital decisions – health, wealth and lifestyle – as physical and cognitive abilities decline.Elderly woman sitting at her dining room table.

“The challenge is converting a world built by and for the young into a world that supports and engages population that live 100 years and beyond.”

Laura Carstensen: Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity

The goal will be to leverage technology through the Internet of Caring Things (IoCT), a network of connected devices, sensors and cognitive systems that allow family members, doctors and caregivers to proactively monitor the health and well-being of the world’s aging population. Through cognitive assistants, we will deliver personalized insights and timely recommendations to individuals or caregivers about their health as physical or environmental conditions change.

The devices and sensors are already here and will continue to become more pervasive. With the predicted billions of IoT connected devices, our goal is to effectively understand the information being generated and deliver it in a way that can help everyone make better decisions about personal finances, visits to the doctor or when to take medications, reminders about exercise, and dietary recommendations.

Age-friendly environments foster health and well-being and the participation of people as they age.”

– World Health Organization

Introducing new technologies into people’s lives will always be challenging due to usability or personal interest, especially when the target population is typically one who partially or has never fully embraced digital devices. The combination of accessible technology and IoCT will become essential components to an age-friendly environment.

Making technology transparent to the end-user will help reduce stress and eliminate any notion of an invasion of privacy, such as using sensors instead of cameras. This is designed to help people have more control over everyday activities, strengthen their overall happiness and enrich the quality of life.

At the heart, IoCT is a data challenge. When cognitive computing is applied to the Internet of Things, the systems learn from interactions, resulting in deeper, more meaningful insights into the world around us. We can fuel the big data analysis and harness the power of our cognitive technology to address the needs of the aging population by transforming the human experience – adapting the means of information delivery to each person’s unique requirements.

Aging with the ability to think and to act.”  

– George Rebok: Cognitive Aging researcher at John Hopkins School of Public Health

We are already starting to see solutions in this area combined with IBM Watson, such as with Medtronic, which is developing a new generation of personalized diabetes management solutions. Additionally, IBM has partnered with Softbank Robotics to infuse Watson into its “empathetic” robot Pepper, enabling it to understand and answer questions in real time.

Finally, we must consider the aging trend from a wider perspective than a simple end-user versus a new technology. It involves a value chain of stakeholders, from relatives to care-providers and care-givers to device manufacturers and software developers to healthcare, insurance and social services providers, all connected to the Internet of Caring Things.

We might be getting older, but equipped with caring things, our goal is to help everyone feel younger and age gracefully.

For more information:

  • Read an article in Provider Magazine on the Internet of Caring Things
  • Read a study from IBM and the CTA Foundation that identifies how new and emerging technologies will change the way we age and manage disabilities


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