IoT: keeping the elderly independent at home

By | 4 minute read | December 14, 2016

smart home technology and the elderly

The Internet of Things (IoT) is helping society facilitate a major challenge of meeting the needs of an ageing population. The UK will see a massive 23% increase in those aged 65+ between 2010 and 2018. By 2035, numbers of people aged 65+ will rise by just under 7 million – from 11 to 16.9 million.

In 1908 1% of the population was expected to reach their 100th birthday but since 2012, this has risen to 1 in 3. As people live longer, they will inevitably suffer from a greater number of health issues. Care homes are expensive – an average of £2000 a month – and many would prefer to stay independent in their own home. The main issue here is safety, and family members may have to stop working to provide care if they cannot afford home nurses.

As technology improves, IoT can help eliminate these issues. Data collected from IoT devices formulates an individual’s daily story by monitoring their routine, picking up inconsistencies and alerting emergency services if necessary. Connected IoT devices in the home improve safety, with experts projecting sales of 50 million wireless consumer devices for monitoring health by 2017, the smart home is here to stay.

The smart home

IBM partnered with the Italian city Bolzano and installed a plethora of sensors in homes to monitor daily patterns. Door sensors could track movement regularities, motion sensing light sockets turned lights on and off accordingly, as they saw when individuals entered and left a room. Water and electricity sensors understood cooking and washing up times or when the resident was most likely to put the kettle on. Bed pads tracked sleep habits and could detect if the resident fell out of bed. IoT and connected devices will revolutionise how elderly people live alone.

Self-learning stove alarm

The self-learning stove alarm is much more than a smoke/heat detector. It learns an individual’s cooking habits within a specific house by picking up data. Falling asleep when – or simply forgetting that – the stove is left on is incredibly dangerous, and this small device aims to send alerts before toxic gases are released/before a fire starts without being a hindrance.

IoT controlling temperature

The temperature-activated flow reducer screws onto a tap faucet and shuts off water in a sink or shower if it gets too hot, preventing burns or scalding. Furthermore, the IoT thermostat improves efficiency of energy use and adjusts the temperature within the house depending on the weather outside. Although both devices are very simple, they are highly effective for someone with health issues exacerbated by harsh temperatures, e.g. severe arthritis.

Smart barcode

IBM’s own Andy Stanford-Clark invented the smart barcode, with 42 patents, this one is his favorite. When scanned with a laser, one black line of a barcode changes from black to transparent, giving two different codes based on whether the barcode is a certain temperature. It is used to detect whether an item is frozen or chilled. So, when connected to a smart oven, it automatically identifies cooking temperatures and times to ensure everything is ready at the same time. This can make meal prep easier for the elderly, taking away any confusion surrounding differences in cooking conditions.

Smart doorbell

This surprisingly powerful device offers a lot of functionality in a small package. A locked front door is one of the most effective barriers of burglary and a smart doorbell increases security. It allows residents to see who is at the door without opening it, giving them the option to speak, record or take a snapshot and view it on their tablet/smart phone. It can let people in, such as health workers, perfect for those who are less mobile. The app connecting this means that family members can be aware of who has entered the home, providing peace of mind.

Smart speakers

Smart speakers can carry out an array of tasks, from playing music to answering questions, reading audiobooks and reporting on traffic and weather. It can even call the emergency services through connected phones if requested to. It can control lights, switches and thermostats, so it really acts as the hub for the smart home. Furthermore, when connected to sensor pads, the smart speaker can alert someone if they have taken or missed their medication. The pads are connected to an app, which can be accessed on a tablet or smart phone. By placing the medication onto the pad, it then collects data as to when certain tablets have been taken and can either remind residents they have missed a dose or if they are about to take too many.

IoT and independence

Not only does IoT technology reduce the strain on healthcare services by keeping the elderly in their homes. It is life-saving, unobtrusive and effective. It allows an ageing population to keep their independence, and gives friends and family piece of mind.

To learn more about IoT devices in the home, visit our website.