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Could Autonomous Car Technology and AI Transform Homecare for the Elderly?

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With backgrounds in medicine and health economics, we have long been interested in how the latest technologies can augment our ability to care for each other. Today, with the world’s population over 60 expected to more than double by 2050, growing faster than all other younger groups, the need for more innovative, scalable approaches to care is more critical than ever.

Data show that the elderly typically want to stay in their own homes and communities instead of moving into care facilities. That’s why UK-based start-up Cera Care is committed to providing high quality at-home care designed to enable people to live freely and independently for as long as possible.

At Cera Care we already care for hundreds of people living in their own homes through our network of carers across the UK. With our focus on companionship, our aim is to have a deep understanding of all of our care clients; but the nature of at-home care is that most of them spend at least some of their time alone – potentially leading to gaps in an individual’s care history. That’s why we’ve been working with IBM Research’s lab in the UK to develop a new approach that uses technology to augment the knowledge and expertise of our carers.

Starting in June, we will launch a six-month study that uses an exciting innovation from a very different industry – automotive. LiDAR sensors use pulsed laser light to create fine-grained, three-dimensional scans of objects and their context. Already playing an important role in the development of self-driving cars, LiDAR technology has strong potential in the care industry. For those who consent, LiDAR has the ability to help create a detailed picture of the daily routine of care client in their home environment.

But because LiDAR doesn’t recognize personal characteristics, it is much less invasive than other high-definition technologies such as cameras, while potentially much more accurate than other approaches that use motion and pressure sensors.

While LiDAR promises to act as a powerful set of “eyes and ears,” IBM Watson AI will provide the brains. IBM Watson’s machine learning capabilities can learn an individual’s daily routine, make recommendations so that carers can enhance care plans, and alert caregivers and medical personnel to possible deteriorations in a person’s health (such as changes in gait) or emergency situations (such as a fall). IBM has over a decade of experience in this field, using AI and sensor technology to enable more effective at-home care all over the world.

We firmly believe that technology will enable more personalized and sustainable home care systems in the years to come, and our experience tells us that individuals and caregivers are usually quite open to using it. However, we need to make sure that the technologies we use are used transparently, respect people’s privacy and are accepted across the care ecosystem.

During the study, volunteer households from our care network will help us explore the value of sensors and AI in combination with caregiver observations in a homecare setting. The insights from the pilot will guide our future investment and technology strategies, and, we hope, will help inform the direction of the at-home care industry. If you are interested in participating in the pilot contact us via our website.

AI and machine learning technologies have tremendous potential to augment and complement human endeavors. In care services where human-to-human interactions are essential, AI has the power to enhance and maintain a high-quality of care with manageable costs in environments in which people feel happiest.

Chief Product Officer, Cera Care

Dr. Ben Maruthappu

Co-Founder & CEO, Cera Care

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