To track seniors’ medical conditions and surroundings more closely, researchers are experimenting with more advanced smart sensor networks that provide remote caregivers real-time insight into the health and well-being of in-home patients. For example, research teams led by Diane Cook, Ph.D., of Washington State University and Nirmalya Roy, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), are exploring how to retrofit homes with sensor networks that monitor a resident’s behavior and activity levels.
These sensor-enabled homes use machine learning to recognize behavior patterns such as eating, sleeping, and movement, and then identify and report any signs of illness or cognitive degeneration to caretakers and physicians via the Web or mobile networks. The monitoring capabilities also alert physicians to changes in the physical and mental health of their senior patients, and allow them to intervene before adverse events occur. Finally, enabling seniors to live safely in their homes for as long as possible will likely help these individuals retain their sense of independence and self-confidence longer.4
Compared to the high cost of traditional assisted-living facilities and nursing homes, sensor-enabled smart homes are relatively inexpensive. Retrofitting a home with sensor technologies costs $2,500, on average, for hardware and installation fees, plus a modest monthly fee for monitoring and analyzing the data.5