For older adults and their families, the balance between maintaining independence and being cared for by others can be tricky to negotiate. It seems that a combination of sensor technology and web-enabled cameras could provide helpful information, but the potential for it to be invasive, insulting, and ultimately meaningless is pretty high. Lively is a product currently proposed on Kickstarter that negotiates these challenges well. Instead of an always-on vigilance system like a camera or a catastrophe-only solution like emergency alert buttons, Lively offers a number of “passive” sensors that keep track of subtle but meaningful movements throughout the day. A unit on the refrigerator door, for example, gives an indication of eating habits, one on the medication dispenser shows when pills have been taken. Cameras do play a role in the system, but instead of being used to watch someone, photographs from other family members are compiled in a bi-monthly mailer to give the person being cared for a window into what everyone else is up to.
The system works by offering a series of low-cost sensors that detect movement and communicate with a central hub inside the home. It doesn’t require wi-fi, as it has a built-in cellular connection, but does require an ongoing monthly service fee in addition to the initial hardware cost. Family members can log on to a website to view activity, and notifications are sent if a change in normal patterns is observed.
While it’s being billed as something that gives the elderly person’s life more meaning, it seems like it’s more for the caretakers than for them. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting use of Internet of Things technologies, and harnesses design to place the tech into a friendly and meaningful context for people in their everyday lives.