Magazine article Natural History

Magazine article Natural History

Article excerpt

Safe at Home

There's no place like home, but whether you're a toddler or totterer, it can be a dangerous place. Health and safety risks increase as we age, especially if we live alone. Enter new sensors that can detect everything from falls to changes in health conditions, and high-speed networks that can communicate that information to family members and emergency personnel.

Secure Living, a pilot project in the city of Bolzano, Italy, is designed to demonstrate how a well-integrated detection, monitoring, and appropriate response system can be a "smarter, alternative and affordable [way] . . . to address healthcare and safety needs of a rapidly growing percentage of healthy citizens over the age of 70." The on-demand and need-based model reduces the strain on local resources: social services agencies are alerted only when truly needed, and health care professionals can focus on the patients who should be seen more frequently (see news/homehealthcare.html).

Researchers in Health Alert Systems at the University of Missouri are developing "smart home" technologies. According to an NSF Science Nation report, "The unobtrusive monitoring of individuals with in-home sensors offers enormous potential for detecting early health problems-before they become big problems." The system has motion sensors to monitor activity; webcam silhouette images and Kinect depth images for gait analysis; visual and acoustic sensing for fall detection; and a hydraulic bed sensor that captures pulse, respiration, and restlessness. …

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