M2M Monitoring Casts Safety Net for Seniors

Create: 12/18/2016 - 12:00

Every senior wants to stay at home as long as they are physically and mentally able to take care of themselves. The reason many seniors have to seek additional care is their perceived lack of physical security—that something could happen to them that causes them to fall, and nobody will be around to help.

Assisted living centers and senior housing communities face similar challenges. Providing physical safety for residents is one of their main goals, as they need to know immediately if a senior has a bone-breaking tumble and fall. Indoor positioning system technology (IPS) is being used to locate and track the position and movements of people inside rooms or buildings, typically via a mobile device.

Finding affordable ways to provide care for seniors is no small task, as the senior population is growing so rapidly it has been dubbed a “silver tsunami” by Senior Advisor. More than 1.4 million Americans reside in senior care facilities, a number that is expected to almost double by 2030, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. Life expectancy is also creeping up, as experts forecast 110 to be the average age people live to by 2030.

Position Monitoring with IoT

IoT technology is playing an important role in creating a better quality of life for the senior generation, whether at home or in senior living communities. Indoor positioning system technology (IPS) is being used to locate and track the position and movements of people inside rooms or buildings, typically via a mobile device. IPS relies on wall- or ceiling-mounted beacons that work together to detect a user’s location, deriving an exceptionally accurate position. Like GPS, IPS systems can detect the direction the person is travelling and can predict the user’s path based on that information, so positioning remains accurate.

“Advancements in embedded information and communication technologies present an enormous potential for healthcare support of senior citizens at home,” says Satish Ram, Global Product Line Manager for Kontron’s IoT/Machine-to-Machine and Digital Signage product lines, in a recent blog.

A combination of Intel Intelligent Systems Framework technologies are available that enable machine-to-machine (M2M)-based cloud applications that can provide the necessary connectivity for senior monitoring and safety, without the negative aspects of lost privacy or freedom.

By employing these smart gateways and monitoring in the home, senior citizens have the ability to live independently for a longer period of time, helping to reduce costs and the need for additional caregiver resources. For assisted living centers, this technology can reduce the number of staff needed for daily—or hourly—check-ins on their residents.

Smart Homecare Gateways
Smart homecare gateways and a variety of positioning solutions are coming to the rescue for seniors. For example, ultrasound-based location technology typically used in hospitals to locate and track patients can be deployed as a homecare solution to monitor a senior resident’s activity and detect falls.

Ultrasound indoor positioning systems can automatically track people (and objects) in complex indoor environments with almost 100 percent accuracy. They are typically battery-operated systems, and are cost-effective and easy to install. They require only a wide area communication interface and the infrastructure to manage emergency calls. Using an intelligent systems framework, OEMs and solution providers can design and deploy central smart gateways for sensor data acquisition and cellular communication applications.

Precise Positioning Data

Ultrasound-generated positioning signals are highly precise and deliver three-dimensional data—accurate to 3 centimeters. The smart homecare gateway is constantly monitoring these measurements. Only relevant data is broadcast, and as soon as any critical event is detected, the built-in wireless WAN connection sends out a notification for help. 

If the movements and locations registered by the ultrasound receivers are within the threshold of what is defined as normal for a senior, the emergency call system is idle. If a situation occurs that is not considered normal, an alert is automatically sent through an M2M platform to relatives, a home care provider or security call center.

Sonitor P-Tag

Photo: Sonitor P-Tag, sonitor.com

Ram also recommends another easy-to-install system for senior home monitoring. The device includes a small waterproof sensor that the senior could wear like a wristwatch. At regular intervals of 15 to 20 seconds, the system sends a positioning signal to the ultrasound receiver, which communicates over standard wireless WLAN connections to the homecare gateway.

For the solution provider, one important benefit of positioning systems for fall detection is the ease of installation and maintenance. No physical network connection is required. The battery-powered sensors have a capacity of up to three years, and the units have no power connection for recharging. Only one service interval for a new battery is required every two to three years. 

Solution providers who tap into M2M smart services development platforms have  a cost-efficient starting point for field deployment of gateways and positioning system technology for the home and community living centers. Not only is this a new opportunity, but it has an added benefit of bringing an enhanced level of security and care to a growing population of seniors. 

Read more about Intel IoT Gateway Technology and download solution briefs and use case videos.

About Author

Patricia Schnaidt's picture
Patricia Schnaidt
Patricia Schnaidt is an expert business technology writer. She has held top publishing and editorial positions at InternetWeek, Network Computing, Windows Magazine and LAN Magazine. Schnaidt has written countless articles, lectured extensively, and authored "Enterprise-wide Networking" (Prentice-Hall). She holds a B.A. in Computer Science from Columbia College, Columbia University.

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