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Aging in Place: How the Internet of Things Can Bring the Mountain of Social Connectedness to a Massive, Growing Market of Elderly Users

Thomas Brady (Reaction, Inc.)
Location: Fire House
Slides:   1-PDF 

This talk is pretty flexible.

We started out with a question: how could the Internet of Things empower elderly populations living in their home, on the verge of needing assisted living, to have safer, richer lives. Could we surface technologies like social networking in already familiar objects? Could we monitor their health without making them uncomfortable?

We put together a wireless mesh network built with Arduinos and nRF24L01+ for about $10 a piece, and hid them inside everyday household items such as clock radios, night lights and digital picture frames. We devised a hub, comprised of a Raspberry Pi, running Node.js, and an NeTV which allowed us to superimpose an interface, built in HTML5, over a live video feed. This allowed us to interact with the user by showing notifications and alerts atop live television. The clock radio allowed audio alerts. Nearly every device reported motion activity. With a server, this meant that we could report that the user was alive and moving, for one. With a little intelligence, this meant that we could tell which room they were in. And if it was a room that would not normally see much “hanging out”—a hallway, for instance—we could deduce that if the user was in this place for longer than 15 minutes, something might be wrong, and so the system to inquire if the user needed emergency services.

The television could easily, then, too, become a telepresence device. The Raspberry PI and NeTV could present Skype, or another videoconferencing solution, via an intuitive interface (picture an address book populated from Facebook contacts, with photos). It could also offer reminders and alerts for appointments populated from Facebook (or Google+, or whatever social solution gets integrated). You could even watch television with someone, like your grandchildren.

This was just the beginning. We envisioned lots of devices we could and would have built, given more time.

The outcome was a system that allowed an elderly user to interact with only devices familiar to them—clock radios, night lights, television remote controls—that brought 21st century technology to the user, requiring very little, if any new interaction paradigms for them to learn.

We have prototype hardware, so we could either present slides or do a demo.

Photo of Thomas Brady

Thomas Brady

Reaction, Inc.

New technologies fascinate me, but I am most enthralled with innovations that enable humans to
share their experiences. I want to be a part of a technological revolution that sees more people in
more places learning, teaching, and being able to share their stories.

Specialties: Prototyping, User Experience Simulations, Application development (from Objective C to Ruby on Rails to javascript on the front- and back-ends), Interaction Design, Hardware-hacking (Arduino, Raspberry Pi, etc.)