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Dr. Tan discusses how a variety of IoT devices will assist in caring for the Ageing-in-Place

In mapping out the future of Singapore, it is essential that Smart Nation initiatives remain inclusive and responsive to the needs of society as a whole.

One particular segment which the Smart Nation programme is paying special attention to is the elderly population.

OpenGov sat down with Dr. Tan Hwee Pink, Associate Professor of Information Systems (Practice) and Academic Director of the SMU-TCS iCity Lab, to discuss how the SHINESeniors project is aiding in these efforts, how the project has evolved, and what new devices they are looking to integrate next.

SHINESeniors, or Smart Homes and Intelligent Neighbours to Enable Seniors, aims to provide an experiential- and evidence-based solution, and  to deliver more effective means of community care services through ICT.

This research project is supported by the Ministry of National Development and National Research Foundation under the Land and Liveability National Innovation Challenge (L2NIC) funding.

When we last sat down with Dr. Tan, he introduced the SHINESeniors project and the impact it has had on the current 50 participants in the study.

New Sensors bring New Insights

Now, we wanted to catch up on the recent developments from the project to hear what ‘cool’ new things they are up to. Currently, the project is actively exploring the option of integrating new and needs-driven sensor technologies into the homes of their patients.

“Why not explore how each physical device can do more than one thing?” Dr. Tan exclaimed.

This is an important consideration each time they put stuff in the elderly’s home, as the homes are not very big have limited power points and the elderly tend to be very concerned about consumption. 

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Due to this, SHINESeniors is trying to minimise the number of physical objects that the elderly can see. This will help them remain at ease about the amount of energy being consumed by the sensors, rather than adding several more devices in the home.

We were then curious to find out how they are working with their partners in deciding what to measure and what new useful information can be derived with sensors placed in the elderly’s home.

“The need for new information is derived from the interaction with our users which are the caregiving organisations. The consideration of minimally adding new sensors to obtain that information comes from the technical team.,” Dr. Tan explained.

Caregivers are looking for more fine-grain information about the elderly’s activities. In addition to sensing motion, the partners of the project are curious to see how the same device can capture the ambient temperature, light level, and audible sound level, which could lead to the inference of comfort, sleep quality, watching television or hosting visitors etc.

With all these sensors in the home, it may seem intrusive to the ageing-in-place. However, Dr. Tan told us how they are taking extra steps to show their participants there is no need to fear.

“This is a very important point because we do bring the mobile app and we show them, this is what the caregivers see, this is what we see, and what your family members see. We can only see lines. Any privacy concerns, shouldn’t be a worry,” Dr. Tan stated. 

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Personal Inspiration and Moving Forward

We asked what personal inspiration Dr. Tan brings to the project, to which he told us about a conversation he had with his elderly parents while sharing with them the meaningful things he is doing with the SHINESeniors project.

“My father told me about an elderly who lives in his block. He has a neighbour who would buy noodles for him every morning because he is not very ambulant. The neighbour would routinely get a packet of noodles from a nearby hawker centre, and hang it on his door. The elderly would just open the door, pick it up and eat it,” said Dr. Tan,

“In the afternoon he will always make it a point to walk past the door to make sure the noodles is no longer there. One afternoon, the noodles were still there after a couple of hours. So he had a sense where something had happened. Then he called the ambulance. The elderly did pass away sitting on the chair in the house.”

This story spoke to Dr. Tan because it demonstrated that there are so many elderly people who live alone, whom nobody visits by choice or otherwise. For someone with elderly parents, it is hard to think of such an unfortunate event happening to them. It could even happen to us as we grow old.

Dr. Tan and his team continue to work on solutions which will help elderly populations age safer at home, in the hope that this would not happen in the future.

Moving forward in 2016, the SHINESeniors project is looking to add enhanced sensor systems to the homes of an additional 50 elderly people. This will be carried out in stages after the Chinese New Year.

Also, Dr. Tan and his team will be looking to obtain richer information through the additional sensor trials which are taking place. This will assess the true needs for the ageing-in-place and help drive the future of the SHINESeniors project.

Dr. Tan Hwee Pink will be speaking at our upcoming Indonesia OpenGov Leadership Forum on 25 February- be sure to stay tuned for our coverage of the event!

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