Looking to keep tabs on the parentals and grands while leaving them a feeling of independence? Australian technology to the rescue.
Getting older doesn’t seem like an easy thing. Watching it from afar, you often see your parents and grandparents begin to deal with changes to what they can do and what their bodies will let them do, coupled with a world that is increasingly changing around them.
It’s not an easy situation, particularly if they want to retain the same level of independence they’ve always had. That’s hard to give up, because for many of us, it’s what makes us feel human.
While there are places and homes that can accommodate that, it may, in fact, be possible to give the elderly relatives in your life that degree of independence while also allowing you to keep tabs, thanks to some technology being rolled out in Australia.
It’s coming courtesy of an Australian technology called Sofihub, which aims to use sensors and monitor technology together with artificial intelligence to not only give you a gauge on what your relatives are doing, but also to give them reminders, as well.
To do this, Sofihub uses a base station to give reminders to someone — Did you remember to take your pills? Your kids are coming to see you today — while asking you to position sensors in the home that can track and confirm this information, with all of it coming together in a portal you can access remotely. In theory, it should allow a relative to feel like they’re independent — because they will be — while giving families peace of mind by monitoring using an online counterpart.
Simply put, you don’t need to be there or even call in to check on the parentals, as the system will tell you what’s happening remotely.
The concept didn’t start as a monitoring system, though. Essentially, Sofihub started four years ago to identify the gaps in aged care and how they could be improved. Research centred around reminders, medication, and loneliness could be dealt with, as weak as dealing with a potential problem of technological phobias.
It can be difficult for people to adapt to new technologies, so Sofihub looked to build something that could sit in the background and monitor while providing that little nudge users needed, essentially promoting independent living without relying on an interaction from them, all the while keeping their loved ones informed, albeit at arm’s reach.
The result was the Sofihub Home, a small hub that uses 4G to keep in contact with the web, and talks to a set of sensors placed in positions around the house that work in line with what they already do. You can place one where the medicine cabinet is, and it will track when they’ve opened it to take their pills throughout the day. A sensor near the kettle might tell you the last time they warmed up some water to make themselves a cup of tea. And so on, and so on.
Sensors talk to the Sofihub Home and relay information to loved ones, providing a bit of insight into what’s going on. There’s no video or audio being tracked here, merely movement, and Sofihub is joining the dots, detailing what’s going on in a way that’s hardly invasive in the slightest, and more just background.
Artificial intelligence helps the system by analysing the information going on, providing behavioural insights into what’s being tracked, and even relaying that to relatives and carers tracking the loved one. That might include understanding what’s happening on the day to day and learning from it, helpful if habits change.
Sofihub will apparently work in the foreground as well, though, with the system supporting voice notifications that you can set for them as well as what the day is going to be like. You can have the system give provide weather information to start the day, plus nudges of the things they need to do through messages. The Sofihub Home hub itself will translate text to speech much like a phone or computer does, but through your messages on its online hub. This means you can remind a relative to take their pills in a regular and scheduled message, as well as other notes, and can even throw other alerts in an impromptu way, such as firing a message off the moment it happens or scheduling it in there: the kids are coming to see you tomorrow, make sure you’re wearing pants.
One thing is won’t do just yet is talk to other services, such as a smart speaker like that from Google or Amazon or music services such as Spotify, which tends to work with pretty much everything. We wouldn’t be surprised if it was on the cards for later, but right now, Sofihub seems intent on getting home monitoring understood before it starts delving into a remote form of home automation, with its unique brand on monitoring applied not just to relatives, but to carers, as well.
“The ability to really make a difference in people’s lives is incredibly rewarding, and at Sofihub we are driven by the knowledge that this is what we are doing on a daily basis,” said Trevor Rooney, General Manager at Sofihub.
“Through the products, we’re disrupting the aged care and disability sectors by presenting a solution that is simple, non-invasive and incredible effective for an audience that is eager to embrace more,” he said.
It is worth noting the cost, though, because at a price of $1199 outright, plus an ongoing subscription of $25 per month to handle the mobile connection between Sofihub and the home, it may not be a solution for all families. While the cost of retaining independence in a family member’s home should not be overstated, the cost of buying the package still very much will be a factor for many.
Sofihub told Pickr that the purchase doesn’t have to be immediate, and could be spaced over a period of time, potentially easing the burden that a roughly $1200 plus subscription cost might be. In many ways, that’s no different to buying a mobile phone plus service, except your parents might be less likely to use a mobile if they’re at home all the time.
In fact, Rooney told us that the Sofihub Home and its sensors are just the first part of its system, and that more was coming. While expanding to support other services is a possibility, Sofihub is also playing with monitoring where people go, using a tracking technology to make sure parents don’t wander too far away from home, or even to a local fast food outlet if they have dietary restrictions.
And if this sounds a little like putting restrictions on a family member, it’s not. Rather, the approach is more Sofihub seems to want to keep family members safe and comfortable without losing their grip on any semblance of independence they’ve had.