A city in Japan is using barcodes attached to patients’ fingers and toes as a tagging system for tracking elderly dementia sufferers.
The barcodes, which are 1cm (0.4in) square stickers, contain personal information, such as the address, telephone number and a unique identity number.
They are being offered this month as a free service in the city of Iruma, near Tokyo, in a bid to help ensure elderly dementia sufferers are reunited with family members in the event that they go missing, according to the Iruma welfare office.
A new technology to tackle dementia
The technology requires police to scan the barcode, which allows them access to a person’s local city hall, as well as personal details and contact information, the BBC has reported.
The stickers are supposedly water-resistant and remain attached for an average of two weeks. They are thought to be more discreet and less invasive than previous technologies, such as badges.
An official told the AFP news agency that the new method was a “great advantage”.
“There are already ID stickers for clothes or shoes but dementia patients are not always wearing those items.”
There is a growing need for this kind of technology in Japan, which has a growing elderly population with more than a quarter of its citizens aged 65 or over.
This is predicted to increase to 40% by 2055, while the population is expected to shrink from 127 million to 90 million.
Japan is not the only country struggling with a growing elderly population, however. Many institutions are looking at ways to deal with this demographic change, including Surrey and Borders NHS Trust in the United Kingdom (you can see our exclusive interview with Surrey and Borders here)
This NHS Trust has obtained funding from the NHS England and Innovate UK to start a two-year project to explore how IoT could help people with dementia have more control over their health and wellbeing.
It’s a project that is looking to demonstrate how the use of network-enabled devices such as monitors, robotics and wearables will be able to provide better healthcare for older people in the comfort of their own homes.
Ultimately both projects aim to improve the quality of life for people with dementia, as Fiona Edwards, chief executive of Surrey and Border NHS Trust, affirmed.
“With a growing elderly population likely to experience long-term physical and mental health conditions, innovative new technologies such as those we are trialling through the Internet of Things project will help more people to receive the support they need to live well in their own homes.”
For more IoT in healthcare news, click here.