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The Ultimate Test of the Internet of Things: Smart Aging


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My presentation @ the Wearables + Things conference about "Smart Aging," my paradigm shift about improving the quality of seniors' lives and reducing the cost by combining Quantified Self health devices and smart home devices.

Published in: Health & Medicine

The Ultimate Test of the Internet of Things: Smart Aging

  1. 1. “Smart Aging” ultimate test of the Internet of Things W. David Stephenson Stephenson Strategies Wearables + Things October 21, 2014 Hello! I’m excited to talk with you today about a new concept, “Smart Aging,” that I believe has the potential to improve seniors’ health, reduce the cost of our health care, allow us to “age in place” in their own homes, and help both individuals and society deal with the cost of aging It’s an idea that occurred to me recently when I was interviewed by the Boston Globe about the Internet of Things, which I’ll explain in detail later, and how it would affect seniors. During the interview I had an “aha moment!” I realized: 1. I love the Internet of Things and want it to be used to improve our lives 2. I have gray hair. Suddenly, at age 69, I had a life’s mission: to use the IoT to improve the aging process. Hence, “Smart Aging!”
  2. 2. Can Run, But Can’t Hide Guess what: you may be young and independent today, but some day you too will age, so this is your fight too!
  3. 3. Something’s Gotta Give • 10,000 baby boomers retire daily. • “..aging..will be the dominant force in spending increases” • 1st year med school enrollment declined since 1980. 250,000 docs older than 55. • By 2020, 1 in 9 worldwide over 60. It’s about time for Smart Aging, because, frankly, we, as individuals and a society, just can’t afford to live without it. Consider a few overwhelming pieces of data: • 10,000 baby boomers in the US now retire every day. Every day! • According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, “Through 2037, aging will be the dominant force in spending increases not only on Social Security and health care programs, but also in the overall non-interest budget” • There also ain’t gonna be enough doctors to care for us, either. In fact, 1st year medical school enrollment has declined since 1980. Even worse, current doctors are going from being part of the solution to being part of the problem: 250,000 of them are older than 55, and they’ll also retire soon. • The problem is global: by 2020, 1 in 9 people worldwide will be over 60. Help!
  4. 4. But, what if… You could easily record daily health data & that might improve seniors’ health? But what if there was a radical shift in how we deal with aging? What if a senior could easily and without anyone noticing, record her real-time health indicators? What if, provided she gave her permission, her doctor could actually see that data? Instead of the un-natural setting of a few tests in her office, she could monitor what her daily life was like, including factors such as diet and exercise, to get a better picture of her overall health. She could actually become an active partner in her own health care!
  5. 5. But, what if… Seniors could run their homes — just talking to them? But what if, instead of the current situation, where it becomes increasingly hard for a senior to run his home or apartment’s daily operations as he aged, he could actually control critical functions such as lighting or heating, just by speaking a few basic commands? Instead of being institutionalized, which has been shown to not only radically increase someone’s living costs but also contribute to a decline in his health and sense of wellbeing, he’d be able to stay at home, among his favorite possessions and his neighbors.
  6. 6. “Smart Aging” Senior-friendly home and health technology to cut their health and living costs, improve their health & quality of life — & keep them in their own homes. Put these two innovations together, and you get what I call “Smart Aging.” That’s the concept of using senior-friendly home and health technology to cut seniors’ health and living costs, improve their health and quality of life, and keep them in their own homes as long as possible. I believe it can bring unprecedented health and happiness to our senior years — while saving them and society money!
  7. 7. Made possible by the Internet of Things This revolution — and I do mean revolution — is made possible by the Internet of Things.
  8. 8. Two Aspects: • Quantified Self movement • Smart Home Devices While there have been efforts for a while to specifically use technology to improve aging, I believe Smart Aging will instead result from tweaking efforts underway as part of the Internet of Things to improve life for everyone, of all ages. As Joe Coughlin, director of MIT’s AgeLab, says, “Counterintuitively, making home automation mainstream and cool means that it's likely to end up in the hands of older adults sooner than if home automation technologies were only designed specifically for older people.” Two aspects of the Internet of Things combine to make “Smart Aging Possible.” First is the “Quantified Self”movement and wearables in general. The second is Smart Home devices that automate previously manual processes.
  9. 9. In Other Words…. Wearables + Things!
  10. 10. Ultimate Test of IoT “… when technology recedes into the background of our lives..” —Mark Weiser When I think about this issue, I think about what Mark Weiser, the “father” of the Internet of Things, said about the third generation of computers, in which “technology recedes into the background of our lives.” It seems to me that “smart aging” is both the ultimate challenge, and, potentially, the ultimate proof of this idea: seniors, even the most tech-savvy, don’t want to fool around with tiny interfaces, and are looking to enjoy their twilight years, not be challenged by them. Thus, IoT devices that are simple to use & can become part of their daily lives without setting them apart or stigmatizing them will really transform the aging process.
  11. 11. Already here! How about a beautiful necklace? Smart Aging, without a formal agenda or mandate, is already evolving as part of the general IoT movement. What woman wouldn’t like a beautiful necklace? This one, which I suspect will be joined in the near future by a variety of jewelry that also listens to your body, has sensors on the back that detect early signs of a congestive heart failure episode, so that caregivers can intervene to minimize the attack, or perhaps avoid hospitalization. Neat, huh?
  12. 12. Already here! Smart Home devices that automate your house just by speaking My favorite Smart Home device that works for everyone but especially well for seniors, is the Ivee hub. It looks like a normal clock, but all you have to do is talk to it — not fiddle with switches or anything, and it automatically does things such as turning up the heat. You don’t have to master any new technology — just talk!
  13. 13. Even better… put them together Even better, what if your health devices could trigger your home ones? The Nest thermostat, which has artificial intelligence, learns from your living patterns how to regulate your heating and cooling. The Jawbone UP bracelet includes an alarm function that will wake you at the ideal moment in your sleep cycle to minimize the hassle of waking. Now, the same alarm that wakes you will automatically adjust the Nest, so that you’ll get up in a warm house! Isn’t that incredible? This synthesis may really take off next year. You may have heard about the new Apple Watch, which will be introduced next year. It will be loaded with sensors that detect your heart rate and other bodily functions. And, it will be accompanied by two new iPhone Apps, Health and Home, which will aggregate data from all the different quantified self and smart home devices that you have.
  14. 14. Even better… put them together This synthesis may really take off next year. The new Apple Watch, will be loaded with sensors that detect your heart rate and other bodily functions. And, it will be accompanied by two new iPhone Apps, already available now, Health and Home, which will aggregate data from all the different quantified self and smart home devices that you have.
  15. 15. How Will Seniors Benefit? Encourage healthy new habits such as more sleep, more walking, better diet. So what will this neat new technology do to improve seniors’ lives? It can encourage them to adopt healthy new habits such as getting more sleep, walking more, because it not only records their activity, but also tracks it over time, so they can quickly see whether they’re making progress toward the goals they set for themselves.
  16. 16. How Will Seniors Benefit? Share data Or, they can choose to share your personal fitness record with friends for mutual support and encouragement — my wife and I just created a two-member team to share our Jawbone data and egg each other on. They can even choose to share that data with their adult children to reassure them that they’re staying active.
  17. 17. How Will Seniors Benefit? Transform doctor-patient relationship And, carrying this data sharing to its logical conclusion, Partners Healthcare is now experimenting with allowing patients (provided they opt in, because privacy and security is so important) to share their Quantified Self device data with their doctors. That probably won’t be widespread for a while, but it is likely to result in better diagnoses, because the doctor won’t just have to rely on a few tests, given months apart, but instead can see what patients’ lives are like day in and day out!
  18. 18. How Will Seniors Benefit? Automate household processes Their living spaces will benefit because they’ll now be able to manage a variety of formerly manual processes, such as adjusting the heat or turning lights on or off, automatically.
  19. 19. How Will Seniors Benefit? Peace of mind monitoring 2nd home. Since a lot of seniors are snowbirds and have second homes, they’ll be able to monitor the conditions in their other homes while far away, controlling costs and giving peace of mind.
  20. 20. How Will Seniors Benefit? Coordinate actions And, as with the example I gave you earlier about the Jawbone alarm activating the Nest thermostat, increasingly, as the number of these devices increases and they link together, seniors will be able to activate a variety of coordinated functions simultaneously: they won’t just wake up and have the heat go up — the lights will go on gradually, and the coffee maker will start. Won’t that be both pleasant — and more economical? In that regard, I’m so excited about the potential of IFTTT “recipes” to democratize Smart Aging, by making it possible for people without programming experience — yes, even seniors themselves — to create recipes that really make IoT devices serve real peoples’ real needs. This is a great example: if your father’s Hue Alarm broadcasts a CO2 emergency, the Hue lights will all turn red to warn him to leave.
  21. 21. It Won’t Be Easy Security & Privacy Critical! This revolution won’t happen automatically — and without some pain, cost and debate. Most important is making sure that seniors control their own medical and home information. It is absolutely essential that manufacturers build-in advanced privacy and security protections, and constantly update them. NOTHING will undermine public confidence in the Internet of Things and especially Smart Aging in particular than a few well-publicized security breeches. It’s good that the Federal Trade Commission has already made a big thing out of fining one of the companies that disregarded privacy and security.
  22. 22. It Won’t Be Easy Person Must Opt In & Dignity Comes First Similarly, there’s also a big matter of seniors’ personal choices when it comes to Smart Aging. They must be the boss: the default choice with any device or service must be that you aren’t included or you don’t share data unless YOU specifically agree to it, and the terms must be laid out clearly, and simply. And, when it comes, for example, to wearable devices, their design and appearance can’t stigmatize seniors: they must be either inconspicuous or so accepted by the public that anyone would want to wear them and even show them off. Contrast the Holter monitor for heart functions on the right to the Zio patch on the left: which would you rather wear? Which would your grandfather rather wear?
  23. 23. It Won’t Be Easy Health and fitness devices must be accurate You can bet that, as the health and fitness devices become more accurate, doctors come to rely on their data, and as the manufacturers begin to make claims for them, the Food and Drug Administration will become involved, requiring extensive testing in order for the devices to be certified — and they’ll penalize manufacturers who don’t meet these tests.
  24. 24. It Won’t Be Easy Must Be Simple, Affordable, Easy to Control Finally, any Smart Aging devices and services will have to be simple, affordable, and easy to control. That’s still not the case with many of them, but the trend is definitely toward usability. For example, one of my favorite devices is Ivee: it looks like an attractive clock — which it in fact is — but it also links a growing number of Internet of Things devices and is activated simply by talking to it, from as far as 25’ away. How neat is that?
  25. 25. Worth It In The End! • Improve seniors’ health & fitness • Cut their medical bills • Build their self-esteem • Cut their living costs • Let them stay at home, safely While “Smart Aging” is still in its early stages, the devices and services are evolving quickly, and what’s called “network effects” are already at work: the more of them, and the more they are linked, the more valuable each becomes. It is likely to be a full-fledged reality within the next five years. When that happens, seniors will enjoy multiple benefits. It will: • Improve their health & fitness • Cut their medical bills • Build their self-esteem • Cut their living costs • Let them stay at home, safely. Smart Aging is already becoming a reality, but I believe it also should become a public policy priority, and receive r & d money and active government support. When it is affordable and robust, everyone, from seniors to taxpayers, will benefit. Thank you.
  26. 26. “Smart Aging” For more information: W. David Stephenson Stephenson Strategies 508 740-8918 Twitter: @data4all