An Internet of Caring Things: New Technologies for Senior Living

The Internet of Things, or IoT, promises to revolutionize the way we interact with our environment. So far the revolution has been pretty mundane. Check into a hotel via smartphone. Use a tablet to control mood lighting. Wear a shirt that uploads your exercise data to the cloud.

Analyst firm, Gartner sees an explosion of such uses in the coming years, predicting a 30-fold increase in Internet-connected physical devices by 2020. IoT should reach 26 billion installed units by 2020, up from 0.9 billion just five years ago, Gartner predicts.

These things are useful, but humans in general and seniors in particular need more than utility. We seek out solutions that offer physical and mental well being,enhance our sense of safety, and support our connection to loved ones. Some have called this IoC – the Internet of Caring – and it’s a concept senior housing operators will need to ponder as the revolution in connectedness continues to unfold.

Internet of Things

First: What is the Internet of Things that will drive this sea change in caring senior technologies? Forbes describes IoT as any connect between a device and the internet. From cell phones to household appliances to automobiles: Anything that can be turned on and off can also be monitored and even managed by the cloud.

What will this mean in a senior housing setting? How will this senior technology become a tool for caring? Research firm TrendWatching cites a number of potential examples.

  • There’s a wireless cup that links to a cell phone, as a means of tracking the user’s water intake. This ensures a greater degree of comfort and wellness, thanks to ongoing connectivity.
  • Smart, sensor-fitted garnets pair with wearable measurement tools to gauge exercise and fitness outcomes. Health is a fundamental aspect of caring for oneself, and these tools for an “internet of exercise” can help housing providers ensure seniors have the greatest degree of health and comfort.
  • Emerging IoC tools include sleep masks to monitor brain waves, eye movements and other elements to determine sleep patterns and help improve comfort over time.

Internet of Caring

Connectivity forms the backbone of this Internet of Caring, with high-speed links and cloud storage enabling a new level of information sharing. At the same time, hardware and software play a vital role. Sensor-based monitoring tools feed information to software that performs heavy data analytics functions in order to convert feedback from objects into actual acts of caring. This smart software, sometimes called Artificial Intelligence, plays a vital role in taking seniors’ daily behaviors and converting them into meaningful data in order to enhance an overall caring regimen.

Housing operators need to be aware of the limitations. Despite all the hype, the Internet of Things does not mean the advent of a wholly automated world. Especially when it comes to seniors and to matters of caring, the personal touch remains at the vanguard, with senior technology playing a vital, albeit a supporting, role.

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