Caretakers harness the Internet of Things

What Caretakers Can Do RIGHT NOW to Harness the Power of the Internet of Things

By Beth Kelly

SThe Internet of Thingsocial technology and home automation have moved upstream. According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, nearly one-third of seniors own a tablet or e-book reader. Almost 50 percent of seniors own high-speed Internet access and browse the Web at least 3-5 times per week.

These typing, Skyping, texting seniors are the next beneficiaries of the Internet of things (IoT), the growing network of WiFi-enabled appliances, wearable sensors, automated security systems and other connected devices. For instance, researchers at UCLA are investigating how to use WearSens, a piezoelectric necklace, to remotely monitor breathing patterns of recovering surgery patients. BrainAid offers the PEAT smartphone app to help seniors with memory loss live independently with scheduling assistance.

The revolution is now. Here’s how to get involved.

Give Your Stove a Mind of Its Own

Two things should never be left unattended: fires and politicians. CookStop addresses the former. Supporting 3-wire, 4-wire and direct-wire connections, CookStop uses motion sensors, much like the Xbox Kinect, to detect when a person has left the kitchen. After a brief countdown, CookStop shuts down the electric stove. It’s a godsend for multi-family environments and assisted living centers.

Light Up Your Own Yellow Brick Road

A stairway, really, is just a chiseled cascade of speed bumps. Illumination helps alleviate the peril. A system senses someone at the top or bottom of the stars and, similar to the red strip lights along cinema aisles, turns on a series of pathway lights. Some systems illuminate the entire stairway surface. Most also feature a rocker switch for manual control. Automatic stair lighting slashes the $10-$12 billion annually extracted by stairway accidents, which are a grave concern for many older folks.

Meet Chui. Chui, Meet Ring.

Ebenezer Scrooge’s doorbell, a bronze doppelganger of Jacob Marley, is not the only doorbell that can talk. Chui has facial recognition, two-way audio, network connectivity and a video camera. Once Chui recognizes a person, it can play a personalized greeting – or, in the case of the neighborhood gossip, a warning. Chui can read QR codes and alphanumeric passwords. Chui does not, however, have night vision, and Ring does. Ring, the second generation of the crowdfunded Doorbot smart doorbell, allows a caregiver to see and communicate with any visitor through video feed delivered to a smartphone app

Go to Sleep, Now!

Phantom electrical power is expensive and dangerous. Oodles of manufacturers offer adaptors, like smart power strips, that offset the high cost of power from energy providers. Most automated home system “hubs,” usually mobile device applications, permit caregivers to remotely monitor the home and deactivate televisions, close garage doors, adjust thermostats, and otherwise put the home to “sleep” at pre-set bedtime. When electrical appliances and utilities are down for the night, the home is both safer and more cost-effective.

And You Said, Let There Be Light

The posterity of The Clapper, ActiVocal’s Vocca adaptor transforms any regular E27 “dumb” light bulb into a “smart” light bulb. It enables bulbs to respond to the omnipotent voice command, “Vocca switch light.” Such convenience empowers handicapped seniors to live independently, freed from the tyranny of ceiling fan pull switches. It also makes life – and back pain – easier for a caregiver juggling multiple tasks simultaneously.

The Internet of Things brings hope: hope for aging in place, for at-home surgery recovery, for remote communication, for life past Alzheimer’s and age 92. The products and ideas included herein are designed, ground up, to empower the senior citizens and caregivers looking for daily living solutions.

About the Author

Beth Kelly is a freelance writer and blogger living in Chicago, IL.  She’s become passionate about healthcare and technology issues, and how the two can intersect to make life easier for everyone. In her free time she is an avid gardener, freelance photographer and lover of silent films. Follow @bkelly_88 on Twitter.