Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada are studying elderly patients as they live in an “independent living” facility laden with sensors and other technology to track their daily activities.
The point? To gather data that will hopefully help them better understand the needs of the rapidly growing senior citizen population and help them deploy resources and care in a more efficient fashion.
The researchers are working with Edmonton’s Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital and IBM to study the seniors, who volunteered to stay in the model facility. The pilot project is part of IBM’s “Smart Condo” initiative.
Once the data — from heart rate to body weight to the use of door handles, light switches and appliances — is gathered, the seniors are digitally replicated in a virtual world with avatars so that the researchers can observe their activities without actually watching them.
(The virtual world also gives students a simulation environment to use in training.)
The point of is to figure out if an elderly patient can take medication as prescribed and otherwise function independently, as well as test various modes of at-home health monitoring and care delivery. For example, researchers discovered that there is an important need to track use of wheel chairs or walkers and food intake, two data sources not originally included in the project.
“It has provided visibility to the physical world in a way we’ve never been able to see it before,” University of Alberta professor Eleni Stroulia said in a statement.