An international project is developing technology that will help people live safely and healthily in their old age.
The GiraffPlus project, led by researchers at Örebro University, Sweden, has been developing technical solutions that make it possible to continuously monitor an elderly person’s health through a network of sensors in the home.
According to a statement, the sensors can measure blood pressure and body temperature, register movements and detect if someone is lying still for an unusually long period of time, or takes a sudden fall.
The information from the sensors is analysed by an intelligent system, designed to quickly alert the caregiver in emergencies, but it can also be used for long-term assessment of the patient’s health.
‘The system is designed to be able to, for instance, chart an individual’s sleeping pattern. By measuring the level of activity in the apartment during the night, the system helps both the patient and the caregiver to form a picture of the situation and adequate measures can be introduced,’ said Prof Silvia Coradeschi from the robotics research centre AASS at Örebro University, which is coordinating the project.
‘From a physiotherapist’s perspective, this system provides us with simple and satisfactory ways in which to measure levels of activity and obtain reliable information,’ said Anette Forsberg, who is overseeing the primary healthcare aspects of the project.
At the heart of the system is a remote controlled mobile robot dubbed Giraff that is equipped with a display and loudspeaker. With its help, caregivers can “visit” the patient to discuss and plan care measures based on the information that has been registered by the system.
‘During testing, I and a primary healthcare physician will be using Giraff to pay virtual visits to the users based on their needs. In the future, we hope that this model will serve as a good complement to traditional methods as well as provide patients with a choice for their health visits. Some people prefer a visit to the health centre or the hospital, whereas others would rather not make that journey,’ said Forsberg.
Only those that the user has approved will have access to the system and no information will be forwarded without the patient’s consent. The goal is to create a user-friendly system, offering services that are perceived as straightforward and of great value, while increasing the users’ sense of security and improving their quality of life.
‘The user can opt to let others besides the caregiver have access to the information. Perhaps family members who for various reasons are concerned and want to make sure that everything is OK in the apartment or who simply want to pay a virtual visit using Giraff,’ said Forsberg.
‘Long-term evaluation and user interaction are a few of the factors that make our project a unique one. And that input is fundamental if innovative ideas are to bring real benefits to users,’ said Prof Coradeschi.
The system has already been tested in a demonstration apartment in Örebro, but the next step is for researchers in Sweden, Italy and Spain to evaluate the new technology in real homes.
The GiraffPlus project includes 12 collaboration partners in six European countries, including Tunstall Healthcare Limited in the UK.