Hey, I’m young (relatively young), fit (read: free from diagnosed illnesses), able-bodied. But
as sure as eggs is eggs, I will not stay that way. One day, I will not jump up from the couch to turn on the heater when I’m cold. I’ll forget if I took my medication this morning and my loved ones will wonder if it’s a good idea that I live alone. This is a cruel notion but an inevitable reality for many people in an aging society.
We saw in the last post, which applications are already available for people with reduced
stimulus processing or physical ability. Now we have a look at the Smart Home
development: Language assistants and intelligent sensors are almost indispensable in well-off households. Who likes to come home into a cold & dark place, when there is the possibility to control the heating via smartphone from the train and the Hue turns on itself at sunset. Far from any health restrictions, smart devices and the Internet of Things are already making our
lives more comfortable and secure.
So, we can justifiably assume that as we are getting older (read: more needy) and our senses become unreliable, drones will do the shopping, robots are going to clean the house and AI compensates our diminishing senses. But how to make sure for ourselves or at the urging of our loved ones that we are also capable of the other things in our lives? How will we emphasize the fact that we are self-determined and are not in need of help so that homecare is unavoidable?
Smart pill dispensers are one option. Tricella, for example, reminds me of my medication. Live!y also reminds me of my tablets, but primarily this smartwatch gives an emergency call feature and works as a fitness tracker. Sen.se can do even more: No matter where the sensors are located – from the toothbrush to the refrigerator – “Mother” tracks every movement and provides every activity in an elaborated dashboard. HoneyCo takes one step further. The service makes patterns from the data also collected with sensors and sounds an alarm as they change. This makes sense if, as an old person, I cannot get out of bed, pass out in the bathroom, or have not entered the kitchen for two consecutive days, which is my only food supply.
That’s the fly in the ointment! Tricella will peach on me if I do not take my medication at
the right time or not at all. Live!y creates daily activation and ability protocols that the nursing insurance or medical service would certainly find exciting. And is it really necessary to inform my loved ones if I brushed my teeth in the evening or just fell asleep in front of the TV? The detail of the information and its preparation in a complex iPad app makes me restless. How
much transparency will I have to allow to remain independent? How much observation,
tracking and measuring do I have to tolerate in order to obtain the minimum of emotional self-sufficiency that would be completely denied in a retirement home due to controlled nursing procedures and communal dining rooms? My mother would be delighted (NOT) if I am going to equip her home with sensors and track her life with a smartwatch and a dashboard. It would fit the bill perfectly, as in Hamburg over 340 km away from my mum it would give me peace of mind – but at what price.
Privacy by default and design are therefore the most important keywords when it comes to
technology as an enabler for the elderly. In addition to the cost, our maturity in handling AI, smart devices and IoT will determine whether we will be safer, more comfortable or better guarded, until the pattern shows abnormalities, in our self-determined living.
[Photo by Alex Boyd on Unsplash]
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