IoT for the OAP: new technology for an ageing population

By | 2 minute read | May 12, 2016

I’m only at week five of my career with the IBM Watson IoT team. I am in a perpetual state of fascination, fear, confusion. I’m overwhelmed by what I don’t know, and very excited for everything I am about to learn.

Day 19 saw me on a tour of the IBM IoT lab. It’s where the magic happens, where the uber-geeks show us mortal semi-geeks how everything to do with the Internet of Things works. It’s the room all the cool kids want to be in, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

Having been peppered with questions from various friends and family (What is the Internet of Things? How does IoT work? What do you actually do?) my tour was well timed to help me answer at least some of them! We learnt how to connect to Node Red and Bluemix. We saw some funky IoT stuff resident IBMers had created. And we played with prototypes of new products.

IoT Current Care system

Most inspirational for me was an existing IoT application, the Current Care system. A monitoring system using the Internet of Things for home care and assisted living.

The case study we explored was that of the city of Bolzano in Italy, where there is a growing number of over sixty fives, and a low ratio of young to old. The increase in care costs, and a reduction in budgets, would cause a care crisis in the future.

Technology and healthcare in Bolzano

IBM partnered with the city of Bolzano to create and install a range of sensors to help older residents stay in their homes longer. Reducing the pressure on services, and increasing the safety of each individual.

There’s a touch pad where you can place your medications – it’ll alert you to take your tablets, or remind you if you’ve already had them. Water and electricity sensors to track the routine of washing up, showering, watching TV, or popping the kettle on. There are door sensors so you can see residents are getting up and out and about. And bed pads show whether a resident is sleeping, or if they’ve had a fall out of bed.

By gathering this data patterns can be drawn on usual behaviour or routines, and can alert social services (or emergency services) of any abnormalities or issues.

This project sums up the importance of IoT technology. It’s life-saving, unobtrusive, and it’s efficient. It allows the older population to maintain their independence longer, and gives friends and family peace of mind. It’s certainly an application I would consider for my loved ones when the time comes.