Smart Home

Researchers build ‘smart home’ system to monitor older adults

Researchers built a functional in-home monitoring system using off-the-shelf sensors to identify abnormal events, according to a proof-of-concept study published in JMIR.

The study followed 12 adults with a median age of 89 in a Swedish city using motion sensors, wall plugs and smart water meters. Three participants dropped out due to unforeseen life circumstances. Before the study began, researchers interviewed older adults and their relatives about their normal routines, with a particular focus on meal times.

Overall, the monitoring system observed around a thousand meals and bathroom activities between July and August 2020. It also sent out text message notifications to participants’ family members when they had a normal day and when an anomalous event occurred.

The monitoring system found more than 75% of observed meal activities to be normal, while the actual percentage was 93%. The monitoring and text support received positive feedback from five out of the nine participants’ family members, with an average of four on a satisfaction scale between one and five.

“The results support the use of data from off-the-shelf sensors and IoT devices (installed in real homes) and the improvement of healthcare services by feedback to caregivers in near real time. This further enables older persons to live independently in their homes for longer,” the study’s authors wrote.


The U.S. population is aging, putting increased strain on relatives and caregivers working to assist them. Meanwhile, most older adults want to stay in their homes as they age. An AARP survey found 77% of adults 50 and older wanted to age in place.

However, 34% of all adult respondents said they needed to make modifications to their homes so they or a loved one could stay there safely. Both emergency response systems and smart home devices were some of the top changes homeowners said they needed.


Senior care is a growing focus for digital health companies. Late last year, AI-enabled fall-detection startup SafelyYou scored $30 million in Series B funding months after it closed a $19.5 Series A round.

Papa, which pairs seniors and other people in vulnerable populations with assistants to help with basic needs like shopping and light housework, scooped up $150 million in November last year.

Meanwhile, big players like Amazon and Best Buy are also looking to the space. Amazon’s Alexa Together service uses its Alexa voice assistant to monitor older adults and alert family members or emergency services if necessary.

Last year, Best Buy acquired home care and remote monitoring platform Current Health, adding to its senior services like its Lively emergency-response brand.


Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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