Senior Living and the Future of IoT

An Interview with Chad Burow, Director of Sales, Telkonet, Inc.

Chad, what do you envision the future of IoT will look like in senior living facilities?

We will automate more of our daily functions as our lives get busier. The growth of devices that connect with one another will to continue to expand. Now, that may seem obvious, but the devices the market will create, they’re far from obvious; we have just begun to conceive of them.

Our markets (senior living, student housing, hospitality, MDU’s and military housing) are similar to each other in that they’re living spaces with intermittent, unscheduled occupancy. On the other hand, the occupants in those spaces have widely different needs and wants.

These individualized needs and desires are the catalyst of Internet of Things innovation.

The Senior Care Industry

The senior care market is certainly concerned with sustainability. However, their focus will primarily be finding advances in health monitoring. For example, wearable devices tied into a thermostat; automated pathway lighting as the resident moves from the bedroom to the living room; anything from a safety and security perspective is going to be huge. Being able to send a report back to the central desk that the resident’s pulse rate is within a certain range. Or issuing health alerts when pulse rate falls out of a certain range. Fall alerts. Even measuring their gait from bedroom to living room is possible: are they slowing down?

Our CTO, Jeff Sobieski, and I met with a prominent local healthcare institution here in Wisconsin. We were discussing in-home care for seniors and how Telkonet can use our expertise in data collection and analysis, and create other functionality from a reporting standpoint. The objective is keeping our seniors in their own homes for as long as possible, sidestepping moves to assisted living facilities. IoT is going to play a huge role in promoting senior independence and remote caregivers.

Imagine being able to identify a trend, like “Mom is walking from the bedroom to the living room more slowly than she used to”; “her walk is getting longer”; “the trips to the bathroom are becoming less frequent”, or “the refrigerator is not being opened as often as it used to”.

In the future we can collect data points on all of these are activities. When their habits change, IoT devices will provide indicators that something is wrong, or there’s something we should pay attention to.

As a side benefit, the son or daughter or other caregiver enjoys the peace of mind that there’s something in place for their loved ones. It is more than connecting to just “stuff” at home, but also connecting the resident themselves, being aware what’s going on in their daily lives. Without seeing, hearing, intruding. There will have to be a balance between IoT and privacy.

Do you have any concerns about IoT use in the future?

Privacy. Hands down.

We’re talking about senior living. We do not want to intrude on their privacy by installing cameras all over the space, watching them all day (not to mention the impracticality of having to actually sit in front of a monitor and be watched). Instead, we can use sensors that are relatively respectful of a person’s right to privacy.

I think that’s the root of conflict in the future: how much this connectivity starts to challenge the privacy of one’s life. That’s where the big challenge will lie. The more connected we are, the less private we are.

At what point is sustainability, the convenience, and the automation of my life so valuable that I am willing to sacrifice my privacy? I think that’s the $100,000 question each of us will have to answer. It remains to be seen.