People Power, Berkeley, IBM develop smart dementia solutions

People Power, Berkeley, IBM develop smart dementia solutions

Internet of Things (IoT) software company People Power has received funding from the US National Institute on Aging (sic) to develop in-home solutions for carers of dementia sufferers.

The company is partnering with researchers at UC Berkeley. The grant is expected to total $4.5 million over three years.

The Institute aims to improve the lives of older Americans through a combination of social, medical, and behavioural research aimed at reversing the ageing process and fighting age-related diseases.

In-home assistance

The aim of People Power’s collaborative research with UC Berkeley is to learn more about how connected in-home services can provide assistance and peace of mind to caregivers who are responsible for looking after loved ones, relatives, or friends with dementia.

The research will focus on the everyday stressors for carers and people living with dementia and seek to develop customised solutions to those problems.

The partnership aims to improve the quality of life for people living with progressive neurological disorders, both in terms of their safety, and enabling them to live more independent lives – an aim shared by many robotics and AI programmes in social and healthcare, for example.

People Power’s expertise in the delivery of smart home solutions with artificial intelligence-based microservices will be harnessed by Professor Dr Robert W Levenson of UC Berkeley’s Psychophysiology Laboratory.

Levenson plans to measure the impact of People Power’s IoT solutions on the emotional well-being of dementia sufferers – and their caregivers. “We can help people care for their loved ones using smart home services that reduce stress, anxiety, and loneliness,” said Gene Wang, CEO of People Power.

“Receiving this grant and our collaboration with Dr Levenson at UC Berkeley is the first step in providing desperately needed support for caregivers, through carefully designed connected services.”

A global market opportunity

As the numbers of people aged 65+ boom in the US, the UK, and Europe, dementia care represents an enormous opportunity for healthcare and IoT providers to prove the positive impact that technology can have on people’s lives.

The ultimate goal of the People Power/UC Berkeley initiative is to come up with something tangible: an affordable commercial service that will factor in health, daily activity monitoring, and social integration, to increase safety and quality of life for both caregivers and people with dementia.

“Caregiving for persons with dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases can be extremely stressful, and many caregivers experience marked declines in their own mental and physical health,” said Dr Levenson.

“Our participation in this collaborative research with People Power will address the profound intertwining of the lives and well-being of caregivers and persons with dementia as they engage in one of life’s most challenging and intimate relationships.”

Plus: New IBM assisted living partnership

In related news, UK-based care management company Karantis360 has partnered with IBM to take a cloud-based assisted living system to market, for dementia sufferers and elderly people.

The non-intrusive system will be designed for potential installation in homes, sheltered housing, residential care, and healthcare facilities. It combines sensors with analytics and push notifications to track movement around the home and detect any behaviour that stands out from normal patterns.

An alert is sent out through the Karantis360 mobile app if emergency attention is needed.

IBM believes the system exemplifies how healthcare providers can harness emerging technology to improve care for patients who require close monitoring.

Internet of Business says

In the UK alone, the numbers of people aged over 65 will increase from 12 to 17 million by 2035, while in the US, 65+ citizens will rise from 15 to 24 per cent of the population by 2060.

As our recent report on robotics in smart cities revealed, populations worldwide are moving into cities, too, so the future for many people in the West will be growing old in ageing cities.

In Asia and Africa, meanwhile, the challenge will be different: vast numbers of young people living in young cities; 90 percent of the global youth (15-24) population will be on those two continents, according to UK-RAS statistics quoted in our robotics report. However, many will be tasked with looking after ageing relatives who are living much longer.

It is solving problems like these with dwindling national investments in social care that are both a challenge and an opportunity for technology companies.

Additional analysis: Chris Middleton.