Sensors to keep elderly safe at home

Nov. 14, 2012 at 4:01 PM
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ADELAIDE, Australia, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Australian computer scientists say they're developing novel sensor systems that will help older people keep living independently and safely in their own homes.

Radio-frequency identification and sensor technologies are being adapted to automatically identify and monitor human activity, with the goal of determining if an individual's normal routine is being maintained so assistance can be provided if it is needed, the University of Adelaide reported Wednesday.

Although RFID technology is in common use today in applications such as anti-shoplifting and vehicle identification at toll road collection points, its use in interpreting human activity remains largely experimental, the scientists said.

"Our work will be among the first few projects in the world conducting large-scale common-sense reasoning in automatic human activity recognition," researcher Michael Sheng said.

The proposed system will be important for an aging population, he said.

"This is becoming a significant problem for most developed countries where the proportion of older people is rapidly increasing and the labor market is tightening -- there are more elderly people to be looked after but less people to do it," he said.

"We are trying to solve this by developing a system using a network of sensors attached to objects that the person is interacting with in the home; using software to interpret the collected data to tell us what someone is doing."

The system, which would not require older people to wear anything or turn anything on or off, could be a low-cost and unobtrusive system without the privacy issues and intensive monitoring involved in video surveillance, he said.

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