RIOT is not a word often associated with care, but it is one of the exciting finalists in a recent competition to find the best internet-connected products for SmartAgeing. In this article we take a peek at the cutting edge of SmartAgeing products that are in development and how they could help us in the future.
Keeping safe at home
Local authorities have installed thousands of home monitoring systems for vulnerable people in the UK. These usually consist of a box plugged into the telephone line, some movement and door sensors and a button to press that can be worn on a belt or as a pendant. These systems have been around for a decade or more and do provide assurance but three of the finalists look to improve on this by connecting the home monitors to the internet, providing additional benefits.
Alcove’s RIOT takes the familiar home monitor ideas and adds a smart response so that it asks you if you are OK if, for example, you’ve not got up at the usual time or have left an outside door open. If you do not respond to what they call a ‘nudge’ then the system escalates alerts to a response centre or a carer. So rather than the first action from the monitor being to tell someone else, RIOT asks you and only then contacts someone else – we feel this is a huge improvement as the technology involves & benefits you, the person being monitored, first and not outside parties. You probably do not want alarms going off with carers if you just overslept or left the door open to get some fresh air, but a discrete call to check you are OK is reassuring.
Kemuri is another home monitoring system but instead of movement sensors around the house it focusses on the kitchen, as under normal circumstances you will be in the kitchen regularly every day, making drinks and food. We like the idea of putting all the kit into a regular power socket – there is no connection to a phone line – but there is a clever phone app to show carers and loved ones if everything is normal or if you have broken your routine, suggesting something might be wrong which they can use to check-in with you.
While some monitoring products seek to blend into an existing home, RelaxedCare adds a futuristic cube to the living room which acts a control-hub for the usual sensors with an app to tell loved ones whether you are up and about as expected. The key idea is that that loved ones also have a cube in their living room and by placing objects on the cube both parties can indicate (through glowing lights in the cube) simple information for example you would like a call, or your family are home but busy with bathing the kids. It is certainly an elegant idea but we are not would like to understand how it works in practice – red might indicate a problem but does blue mean the house is too cold or now is a good time to call?
Memory loss and mind games
We have all lost our keys and have spent frantic minutes searching for them. Ubiquid uses tech from the warehouse and logistics world to tag important items in the home and provide a scanner to help find an individual item, like keys or a wallet, even if it is in a pocket at the back of a cupboard. The team behind this have launched to residential homes initially to help the scan cupboards for missing items, but as costs comes down plan to see to individuals where this could transform the homes of even mildly forgetful people.
Some products address memory loss directly. Memrica allows you, or those caring for you, to add useful background information to photographs, for example the names of the people. While this is like a normal photo management tool, Memrica uses this information on your smart phone to support you as you go about your daily business. So if you have an appointment with a friend it will provide a photo and other information to provide memory jogs of who the people you are meeting are, and how they are connected to you. Cleverly it adds a smart search tool to make it easy and natural to find information and also provides a help function which can even guide you to a safe location if you get lost. This sounds like a terrific way of helping us retain independence for longer, especially if we can use it to build that information before we need the reminders – it shouldn’t be more of a chore than organising your photos, but far more useful in the long run.
Another tool that aims to support mental stimulation and so delay loss of mental capacity is AlzhUP. Rather than focussing on one area, AlzhUp is designed to provide a single simple-to-use website and phone app where a variety of different tools are provided. These tools help cover a range of activities that are known to be good for continued mental health, for example games to stimulate the mind, exercise to improve blood flow to the brain (and everywhere else!), diet choices or even activities that help memory retention and recall. The innovation here is first ensuring that all the activities offered have a medically proven background and taking this list of diverse activities and turning them into a game that rewards healthy behaviour and so incentivises more good behaviour across a broad spectrum of activities. While the focus from the name of the product seems to be mental health, making healthy choices fun is something that we would all benefit from at any stage of life, so it will be fascinating to see what the game experience is like.
Overcoming sight and speech problems
The Pokémon Go game drew worldwide attention for getting gamers outside. The game involved placing the game-characters on top of a smart phone camera image to make it seem as if the characters were roaming the streets. If you are visually impaired, seeing the real street-furniture, kerbs and obstacles is the problem which is addressed by one team who use a smart phone to accentuate these items so that they stand out in a way that makes it easy not just to see but to recognise even if you have reduced vision. As the developers of Visual Assistant say, this puts the lives of the visually impaired back into focus!
While Stephen Hawking has a recognisable and quirky voice, if you have a speech problemimpairment you might want to sound more normal and be understood without having to type things out. Talkitt uses a smart phone or tablet to first learn your unique voice and then translate the impaired speech instantly into commonly recognisable words, probably best demonstrated in their video on their website. If you do suffer from Parkinson’s or another disease that makes speech difficult, this product could be transformative.
All of these future products are revolutionary and use the internet in some way, so could be called RIOTous -Revolutionary Internet Of Things. In the future we will return to have a look at the remaining finalist and the winner of the Active Assisted Living competition.
We hope you have enjoyed this look into the future, please let us know which you think was the best product or the problem you want technology to address either by leaving a comment below or using the contact form.