Healthcare

IoT Robots Take on a New Mission: Elder Health and Fitness

Create: 02/01/2017 - 19:49
robocoach for senior homes

Photo: Ngee Ann Polytechnic

Voice-controlled Zenbo can function as a home assistant and monitor seniors for unexpected falls, while Robocoach helps keeps seniors fit.

As the average life expectancy continues to climb, elder care is bubbling up as an important global challenge. In 2050, the world will have more than 2 billion people over the age of 60, which is double the number today, according to a recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch Research study reported in CNN.

The social and economic issues that come with caring for aging relatives are appearing quickly throughout Asia and especially in Japan. In response, Taiwanese-based ASUS is tapping into IoT solutions and developing companion-oriented robots as always-on-duty, affordable caregivers for the elderly.

One of its newest self-learning robots, Zenbo, is a rolling tablet on wheels with a digital “face” that can show emotions. It can make video calls and play videos, surf the web, read books and play music. Priced at $599, Zenbo uses the Intel® Atom™ processor and has Intel® RealSense™ 3D cameras, which it uses for facial/object recognition, gesture commands, taking photographs, home surveillance and collision detection.

More importantly, Zenbo has capabilities that could be vital to seniors. The goal is for Zenbo to step in with daily care, such as reminding people of doctor’s appointments or daily medication schedules. In addition, the robot has the capability to monitor a home for emergency situations, including falls and tumbles. If a situation such as that happens and Zenbo detects a problem, it can make a video of what is happening. ASUS says it can also send the video to family members and notify caregivers, allowing them to pilot the robot remotely and use its on-board camera to inspect the area.

But Zenbo’s ability to help doesn’t end there. A special collaboration with the National Police Agency of Taiwan resulted in the development of an app for Zenbo that enables families to contact their local police department in an emergency and speak with an officer using Zenbo's built-in video calling feature.

ASUS Zenbo

Photo credit: Zenbo.asus.com

ASUS is also positioning Zenbo as a moving Amazon Echo or Google Home competitor, capable of taking control of various IoT devices, from televisions to thermostats.

ASUS Chairman Jonney Shih said this about Zenbo in a statement in The Guardian: “For decades, humans have dreamed of owning a companion: one that is smart, dear to our hearts, and always at our disposal. Our ambition is to enable robotic computing for every household.”

The IoT Trainer

A similar solution is being used in Singapore, as a government program recently rolled out Robocoaches to senior activity centers. These IoT robots lead fitness classes, demonstrate exercises and offer encouragement. Robocoach 2.0 models are currently pumping up seniors in 25 venues across the city state.

Robocoach, developed by the Electrical Engineering Department of Ngee Ann Polytechnic in Singapore, is described by its developers as having “a rosy red face, blue eyes and two teeth, with the ability to mimic human movements.” The Robocoach is called Xuan, named after one of its creators, electrical engineering student Lim Pei Xuan.

One screen on the robot’s head acts as a smiling face and offers encouragement and support. The other screen on its chest displays detailed instructions on how to perform each exercise and activity.

The Robocoach, which can speak in English, Mandarin and Cantonese, is pre-programmed with 10-minute exercise routines and music, but senior centers can also customize the routines. It is approximately 1.4 meters tall and can monitor up to a six people at a time, giving them feedback on whether they are performing the exercises correctly. Robocoach can also snap photos during exercise and help seniors share images on Facebook.

The exercise robots are part of Singapore’s Smart Nation program, which uses technology to improve communication, efficiency and infrastructure in the city. One of the program’s goals is to enable the elderly to lead independent, fulfilling lives through the use of technology.

Join the Robotics Movement

  • Find tutorials, the SDK and other tools to build apps at the Zenbo developer program.
  • Learn more about Singapore Smart Nation, which has initiatives in five key domains: transport, home and environment, business productivity, health and enabled aging, and public sector services.

Streamline Clinical Workflows and Improve Patient Engagement with Mobile Technology

Create: 01/17/2017 - 10:56

A shifting landscape is challenging healthcare organizations to rethink their traditional business models. Mobile technology streamlines workflow with software and device solutions to improve clinical efficiency, security, and patient satisfaction for health workers without compromising quality of care.

Read Brief

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.

IoT in Healthcare: Connecting Patients and Care Teams for Improved Outcomes

Create: 08/03/2016 - 13:00

Opportunities for solution providers in the healthcare sector are enormous – and expanding with market growth. According to research from MarketResearch.com, as reported in Forbes, the healthcare Internet of Things (IoT) market segment is projected to hit $117 billion by 2020.

“The healthcare industry is poised for big changes, largely propelled by various high tech innovations surrounding connected health and dependent upon certain IoT technologies, applications, services and solutions,” says Marketresearch.com. “The Internet of Healthcare Technology (IoHT) will include many facets including tracking (medical and non-medical assets and people) and the collection and integration of real-time healthcare data with electronic healthcare records (EHR).”

Intel notes that within the next 10 years, half of all care will be delivered virtually, with providers paid based on their teamwork and quality. “We expect 24/7 diagnostics monitoring from phones, wearables and even implantables with dramatic growth in sensing technologies from the hospital to the home,” the report says. “The integration of device data (inpatient, outpatient and home- or mobile-based) into medical records will be a major push for the foreseeable future.”

McKinsey Global Institute research estimated the potential impact of IoT technologies to be $1.1 trillion to $2.5 trillion per year by 2025 in the healthcare sector – more than any other sector. Mobile healthcare devices will be used to track everything from fitness goals to surgical rehab faster, more convenient and at reduced cost.

Says Intel, three categories are currently emerging for IoT healthcare: person to person, person to computer and person as a computer. Examples include:

·         Person to person.  Technology includes an infant monitor capable of sending parents real-time information on their child’s breathing, skin temperature and sleeping position, and transmitting the data to the parents’ smartphones

·         Person to computer. One example is a smart insulin injection tracker that helps diabetic patients monitor their health and transmits data to a smartphone app.

·         Person as a computer. This type of technology can use the electrical activity in your muscles monitored via a wearable to wirelessly control a computer, phone and other digital technologies. 

 

VigiPen Photo credit: Vigihealth

Business Insider predicts that by 2020, 646 million IoT devices will be used for healthcare. And with this kind of growth, there are clear opportunities for solution providers that are looking to increase sales in IoT technologies within the healthcare sector.

IoT technology can help healthcare organizations improve health management, provide personalized and individualized care and improve patient engagement and outcomes – all of which can make a healthcare organization more competitive. And solution providers can take an active role in facilitating these improvements, while boosting business and profits.

Opportunities abound in healthcare IoT, in the areas of patient monitoring, connected imaging, clinical operations, medication management, clinical operation and workflow optimization and telemedicine, for instance, and for end-users like healthcare providers, patients, healthcare payers and research labs. There will be a growing demand for a variety of medical devices (wearable, implanted and stationary), software and systems (remote device and network bandwidth management, analytics and applications, and network security), and a variety of services.

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