An American engineer has harnessed the power DIY IoT and developed original software to help improve the lives of those suffering from dementia.   

Daniel Strabley is a user engineer with a serious day job. He puts together software for, among others, military personnel using sensors to detect chemical and radiation threats. Information coming back from remote sensors out in the field can be complex, so the main task is to develop software that makes it understandable to users.

His goal on a day-to-day basis is to create something accessible and scalable depending on the experience and ability of the person in front of the screen. With that in mind, he thought he’d turn his hand to designing something similar for patients suffering from dementia.

Not just any patient, though. The first person he wanted to help was his wife’s grandfather, who suffers from dementia, recently moved to an assisted living facility, and has been having cognitive problems. He has difficulty keeping track of time, which hinders day-to-day schedules and causes him to miss appointments and his favourite baseball team’s games.

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DIY IoT can make lives easier

The solution? After hacking a few Android tablets, Strabley was able to develop a user-friendly clock that uses images to communicate the time of day. The DIY IoT system was quickly scaled up to include pill reminders, doctor’s appointments, meal schedules, and match start times. It can also be used to show the names and faces of visitors. The software has been put together so that it can be tailored to the capabilities of each user.

“We’re designing technology for people who don’t know technology,” said Strabley.

But it’s not all about having an easy-to-use system built into a tablet device. Strabley is also working to integrate Amazon’s Dash Buttons with the system. Amazon’s Dash Buttons are sensors that can be programmed – at least since the company released an AWS version – to handle a number of tasks, whether it’s counting or tracking items, alerting someone, starting or stopping a process and much more.

Strabley is turning this success into an IoT start-up. Along with his wife, Jessica, he’s scaling the system to work in institutions such as care homes. The company in development is named Wally, and is being trailed as a ‘Digital Assistant’.

By putting something together from the ground up in a response to a specific problem, Strabley is applying IoT in the right way. “It’s such an emerging technology that everyone is going to be throwing IOT stuff at you, such as giving your toaster the ability to talk to your phone”, said Strabley. “But how much of that actually helps people at the end of the day?”

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