A new UK research project will examine how Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics could help people with dementia to live in their own homes for longer.
The Care Research & Technology Centre, a collaboration between Imperial College London and the University of Surrey, brings together scientists, engineers and doctors to build on existing, early-stage technologies that can be integrated into a person’s home. According to the University of Surrey, the idea is that the new technology will continuously assess physical and mental wellbeing, alerting a person’s medical team of any potential problems.
“Latest figures suggest one in four hospital beds are occupied by people with dementia – and 20% of these admissions are due to preventable causes such as falls, dehydration and infections,” explained Professor David Sharp, neurologist at Imperial College London and head of the new centre. “The new technologies we develop will improve our ability to support people in their homes. They will allow us to intervene at an early stage, to prevent the crises that so often lead to hospital stays, or a move to a care home. What’s more we’ll be able to improve our understanding of dementia onset and progression.”
Some of the technology developed at the centre will include:
- Sensors placed around the house or on a patient’s body to track vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature, and also provide key information such as gait, brain activity and sleep that have previously been hard to measure in the home.
- AI to automatically integrate this patient information and flag any changes – for instance highlighting a change in walking pattern that might suggest a patient is at risk of a fall.
- Robotic devices that could alert patients to safety risks, such as a cooker left on, in addition to monitoring if a patient seems agitated or distressed, and notifying their healthcare team.
All of the technology will be assessed and evaluated by people living with dementia, and their carers, to ensure it is both practical and needed, the University of Surrey said.
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