Artificial intelligence aimed at helping the elderly stay in their own homes longer, by monitoring how often they open their fridge, flush the loo, switch on the light or use the tap, is coming to New Zealand.

Sensors monitor usual patterns of behaviour, such as how many times the fridge is opened each day, and those patterns are used to predict in future if someone is unwell.

The information can then be sent to the smartphone of those monitoring the person’s health, such as family.

Voice-activated alarm systems are also being introduced, with users able to call out for help around the house.

Levin-based company Securely will bring the technology to New Zealand early this year.

Securely is a subsidiary of Electra, a 95-year-old electricity distribution company whose beneficiaries are Kapiti and Horowhenua District power users.

Securely national sales and business development manager Chris Barber said it was working in partnership with Israeli company Essence, who have 25 million devices related to tech-solutions for security, convenience, communication and healthcare installed around the world.

The AI monitoring product was recently named by PC Magazine as the technology behind two of the leading Medical Alert System providers of 2017.

The technology also has a voice activated emergency mode, allowing a person to call for help anywhere in the house, including the shower and toilet. A button can also be pressed if the person is away from home, connecting them with someone in the Securely monitoring team, who can see where they are.

Keeping tabs on how often the loo is flushed can indicate whether a person is suffering from a urinary tract infection, common in the elderly, and less use of the fridge or tap may be a sign the person is at risk of dehydration, he said.

“We know that falls cause a massive expense in the New Zealand health system. We also know that most falls are caused by dehydration. If the fridge is usually opened four times a day and it’s only been opened once in the last two days, then that just might be a little orange light to a family that ‘hey, something’s not as normal here’.”

All information comes back to Securely encrypted, and does not leave New Zealand.

Electra chief executive Neil Simmonds said other ways of monitoring could be pressure pads next to beds and water meters.

“We’ve got something that’s very simple for people to use, and all the smarts are in the background. We’re not using cameras, we’re trying to minimise the invasion of people’s privacy. But compared to going into a nursing home, all of these things are a relatively low invasion of privacy.

“Different people will need different things, but we can keep people safely in their homes for an extra five years.

“That’s a significant difference in cost to them, and most people want to stay in their own homes.”

An entry-level kit, which is the voice-activated emergency alarm and pendant, and a 24-hour response, is expected to cost about $25 a week. Extras, such as monitoring of movement and appliance use, would cost extra, up to about $50 or $60 a week, Simmonds said.

The technology can be scaled up from a single home to a rest-home.

Barber said they were already taking pre-orders, with interest from the aged healthcare industry strong.



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