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Monday, August 28, 2006

MIE2006 – Design of smart homes

It is a wet Monday morning here in Maastricht. George Demiris, now at University of Washington, USA is the first speaker of the parallel paper sessions I am attending; he is speaking about 'Facilitating interdisciplinary design specification of 'smart' homes for aging in place'. Smart homes he defines as a residence equipped with advanced electronics for physiological monitoringto enable early detection of possible problems or emergency situations.

The study focus is of elderly people who have health problems, but are able to undertake many activities of living, but have some limitations. The study used focus groups who rated features and devices; pressure pads and smart cards were felt to be most useful, with PDAs and iris recognition felt less useful. User-friendly and non-intrusive aspects of the devices were seen as important.

One of the aims was to look at design issues for developing an integrated sensor network, which collects data from sensors, including pressure sensors, video sensors etc. that monitor activity levels in the elderly. The study seems to be only of professionals involved in designing care, and not the elderly themselves. The study was based in part on an earlier study that looked at the attitudes and perceived needs of older people in respect of the types of technologies.

The next speaker, Jurgen Broernen from Gothenburg, spoke about 'Rehabilitation after stroke using virtual reality, haptics (force feedback) and telemedicine. He talked of the increasing frequency of strokes and need for rehabilitation in hospital and then at home post stroke. He talked about a proposed system, connecting home and hospital systems via broadband connections, and allowing games-based training exercises as part of the rehabilitation system. The study looked at reference values from 58 healthy subjects to develop a set of reference values against which to compare the results of post-stroke rehabilitation patients. A field study comparing patients using the VR systems against patients not using the system is due to start very soon, which will also include some qualitative measurement of how patients feel about using the system.

In the final talk of the session, Maarten van Steen, from Philips, presented on 'A distributed shared data space for personal health systems'. He began by talking about how he saw 'personal health systems (PHS)' and how new sensors in the future would allow many more parameters to be measured. PHS are seen to be reliant on sensors, which would need low energy consumption. Many current personal health solutions are seen as addressing single diseases or purposes, often without reusable software etc.; the desired future situation is a PHS that support monitoring of multiple diseases, using common middleware layer and distributed shared data space. Data collected from various sensors can be stored in the data space, and different applications can sample a data stream from the data space in different ways (eg sample selectively at different intervals). This is currently a prototype application. Part of the work is within the Dutch government-funded 'smart surroundings' project – www.smart-surroundings.nl The speaker admits the work is not currently standards-related, but there is interest in interoperability issues for smart homecare standards.

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