It sounds like a fantasy straight from The Truman Show: a house that monitors your every move, from bedside to bathroom and from medicine cabinet to fridge. The aim, however, is to help the elderly to lead safe and independent lives.
Researchers are working on a “health house” so sophisticated that it will not only track everyday habits, but also check weight and blood pressure and predict whether a person is at risk of a serious fall.
The system, developed by GE Healthcare and Intel, uses sensors that track a person’s behavior and sends alerts when unexpected disruptions or data are picked up. Patient data, such as risks of hypertension, diabetes and respiratory problems, would be combined with information on daily routines to create an algorithm capable of identifying subtle health changes that might signal more serious problems.
Examples might include how many times a person opens the fridge door or uses the faucet: Repeat trips to the fridge could signal mental impairment, and a failure to use the faucet might suggest an increased risk of dehydration.
The next generation of sensors also studies activity such as bathroom use, time spent sleeping and when medicine is taken, plus vital signs such as blood pressure, weight and blood-oxygen levels.
A trial linked to the University of Szeged in southern Hungary is planned soon. Tests are also being carried out at a Chicago care home run by Ecumen, an American housing provider, and software trials are being conducted in Britain as part of a $247 million dollar telemedicine deal between GE and Intel.