By Kiona Smith-Strickland
Lena Almquist, a Giraff robot and Malin Nilsson at the 4th Annual Elderly Festival in Örebro Sweden.
February 4, 2014 12:30 PM
Motion sensors watch an elderly man’s movement around his home, looking for stumbles or extended stillness that could mean a fall or a medical emergency. Smart appliances look for changes in a woman’s routine and alert caregivers to possible distress. An automated home-safety assistant offers an Alzheimer’s patient a gentle reminder to turn off the stove before he walks away.
The great hope for senior care is that smart technology will provide an assist that helps older people live independently and stay in their homes rather than have to move to an assisted living center or nursing home. The question is, what shape will that assistance take? Out-of-the-way, non-intrusive sensors? Or actual robots, like the happy little helper in Robot & Frank? Some tech companies have already begun to design systems of both kinds.
Smart Home in a Box?
At Washington State University (WSU), computer science professor Diane Cook and psychology professor Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe have developed what they call a smart home in a box. Wall-mounted sensors monitor a person’s movement around the home, while other sensors track the status of water faucets, stovetops, and other appliances. An automated system can speak up and remind the resident to turn off the stove or alert him or her to other home safety concerns.