Ambient Assisted Living: A Step Towards a Smart Living!

Man is a social animal. He believes in getting along with cooperation, helping each other, and fighting through tough times together. He believes in the saying “Union is strength”; and all aspects of his life follow this principle.

The evolution of Man came through a long, long process. Man started as a solitary individual living in the wild, to living together in the form of families, communities, nations, and now the whole human population is one entity.

This social structure of the human society is what gave this race the title of Social Animal.

Tough how much social man is, there still is no one person who wants to live a life dependent on others. Man is born with an independent nature, thus always searching for ways to make himself more and more independent or, you can say, least dependent on others.

During childhood, all the needs of a child are taken care of by their parents, and there is nothing much we can do to make a child independent. During youth, man is at its peak and is mostly independent to do all he wills.

It is in the later stages of life where the problem arises, and it is where it needs to be addressed.

As the man grows old, he gets weaker and weaker. His health deteriorates, his immune system gets weakened, making him prone to various diseases. Soon enough, his energy is decreased to an extent where he needs external help to perform even the basic everyday tasks.

With the increase in population, the number of such senior citizens is increasing day by day. These senior citizens have a variety of care needs, but there are not enough health workers to look after them. This means that more family members have to take up the role of informal caregivers.

To address this situation, the family members, the caregivers, and the health professionals have to think out of the box to look for some creative solutions for the challenging task of ensuring the safety and health quality of the senior citizens.

“Necessity is the mother of invention.”

This necessity gave rise to today’s Smart World!

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Today`s smart world consisting of smart home devices, smartphones, wearables, and software applications have greatly influenced the human lifestyle. These technologies have given much power to a single individual, thus significantly reducing the dependency on others.

These smart technologies not only changed the lifestyle but also revolutionized almost every aspect of human life.

With these smart technologies came the concept of Ambient Assisted Living (AAL). And this is our answer to the challenge of ensuring the life quality of our senior citizens!

Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) provides a system comprising of smart devices, medical sensors, wireless networks, computer and software applications for healthcare monitoring. AAL can be used for various purposes like preventing, curing, and improving wellness and health conditions of older adults.

AAL aims at ensuring the safety and health quality of the older adults and extending the number of years the senior citizens can live independently in an environment of their own preference. Also, it reduces the number of informal caregivers, by allowing the patients to be in control of their health conditions.

Another emerging technology in this regard is the Ambient Intelligence (AmI). It is defined as the ability of a computing system to sense its environment and respond to the presence of people.

Systems built on Ambient Intelligence are called AAL tools.

There are a variety of AAL tools, each with their own diverse applications. AAL tools such as medication management tools and medication reminders, allow older adults to take control of their health conditions.

AAL technologies can also offer more safety for the elderly, using mobile emergency response systems, fall detection systems, and video surveillance systems.

Other AAL technologies provide help with daily activities, based on monitoring activities of daily living and issuing reminders, as well as helping with mobility and automation.

Finally, such technologies can allow older adults to better connect and communicate with their peers, as well as with their family and friends.

Information Technology (IT) has taken the concept of AAL to new heights. The use of Information Technology based systems in disease management make the patient be in control of the situation, leading to a lowering of the healthcare costs.

Under this scenario, their treatment will take place at home, through the use of smart technologies and appliances that will cater for real-time monitoring and evaluation of critical data, triggering alarms and making recommendations, in case of necessity.

Family and relatives will also be empowered, as they will have access, in real time, to the collected information.

Today, Smartphones are the most common and the most important element of our lives. These smartphones are equipped with various sensors such as an accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity sensor, and a global positioning system (GPS), which can be used for detecting user activity and mobility.

Non-invasive sensors (Not involving the introduction of instruments to the body) in the form of patches, wearable devices, smart garments have also been developed to monitor health signals.

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You can measure blood glucose, blood pressure, and cardiac output through wearable sensors using techniques such as infrared sensing, optical sensing, and oscillometer.

Also, continuous real-time monitoring of activities can be done through various sensors For Example, accelerometer and gyroscope capture acceleration and orientation. A Thermometer can be used for tracking of body temperature.

In the old age, as the health of a person deteriorates, he or she has to rely on a bunch of various medicines, according to their health condition of course. But in the old age with several medications to take, one often tends to forget in their daily dosage. Luckily, AAL comes to the rescue again with amazing pill dispensers.

Pill dispensers are devices which release medication at specified times. Pill dispensers are commonly used to help individuals take their prescription medication or daily supplements at a given date and time.

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A pill dispenser contains several compartments in which several medicines can be stored. When the time comes to take the medication, the device automatically releases the pre-measured dose into a small compartment that is easy to open and sounds a loud alarm that it is time to take the medication.

If the patient doesn't take medication, the pill dispenser will send a signal to a monitoring station who can contact the patient, family, or caregiver who can address the situation.

The pinnacle of achievement of AAL is the Assistive robots. Assistive robots allow older adults to overcome their physical limitations by helping them in their daily activities and enable them to maintain their social life. These daily activities can be categorized into three categories:

Activities of Daily Living (ADL)

• Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL)

Enhanced Activities of Daily Living (EADL)

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ADL tasks include self-maintenance activities, such as feeding, dressing, grooming, etc. ADL Assistive robots help in performing basic ADL tasks, e.g., to retrieve dropped objects, detect and grasp household objects, transfer the elderly or a patient from a bed or a wheelchair.

IADL tasks include the ability to use instruments in daily living, such as the use of the telephone, preparing food, etc. IADL robots assist in their respective tasks, for example, assist the user with personal hygiene, meal preparation/consumption, shopping, and mobility. Some robots even can use a stethoscope to check vitals.

EADL tasks include participation in social activities, such as engaging in hobbies, social communication, etc. Robots associated with EADL`s assist with tasks like hobbies, communication, and learning.

EADL-assistive robots are categorized into service and companion robots. Service robots facilitate a person’s interaction with the robot. Companion robots enhance emotional well-being by playing the role of a companion.

Besides assisting older adults with ADL, IADL, and EADL tasks, robots might also prove helpful in monitoring, interfacing with technology, telepresence, and reminding the elderly of the location of objects or tasks like taking medication.

Current AAL systems promise many opportunities for ensuring the independence of older adults, as well as for real-time monitoring of their health conditions.

The vast ever-growing world of technology is making it possible for older adults to continue to live an independent life as they age, thus making it easier for caregivers or family members to keep track of loved ones without sacrificing their entire lives to do it.

Though, using several key emerging technologies such as the smartphones and wearable devices, assistive robots, smart homes, smart garments have made this dream come alive; there still are many challenges that need to be addressed by the researchers in the future!

References:

  1. Rashidi, P. and Mihailidis, A. (2013). A Survey on Ambient-Assisted Living Tools for Older Adults. IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics, [online] 17(3), pp.579–590.
  2. Wikipedia contributors. (2017, November 26). Pill dispenser. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 13:25, December 22, 2018, from
  3. Costa R. et al. (2009) Ambient Assisted Living. In: Corchado J.M., Tapia D.I., Bravo J. (eds) 3rd Symposium of Ubiquitous Computing and Ambient Intelligence 2008. Advances in Soft Computing, vol 51. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg

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Muhammad Bilal Khalid

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Data Driven Investor

empowering you with data, knowledge, and expertise

Muhammad Bilal Khalid

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