Seniors and the Internet of Things: Empowerment and Security

I was quoted extensively in a Sunday Boston Globe feature on the IoT. It was in a special section aimed at seniors, and I’d been really passionate with the reporter about the IoT’s potential to transform seniors’ lives through new products such as bedroom slippers with sensors that can detect minute variations in a senior’s gait and alert a caregiver by app in time to avoid a fall, or a gorgeous necklace that can detect the onset of congestive heart failure). However, the article just ended up as a general introduction to the IoT.

Too bad.

necklace that monitors for possible congestive heart failure

While I was doing the interview, it dawned on me that this might really be a wonderful niche in the Internet of Things.  You see, I spend part of my time caring for two seniors who have faced serious health challenges, and it has really opened my eyes to the potential benefits of ambitious IoT programs for seniors.

We don’t have any time to lose: I’ve heard that a third of all doctors in the US will retire in the next decade, while they and about 10,000 others will turn 65 each day. There is simply no way that we can sustain this loss of medical professionals just when they are needed more than ever without fundamental change in the health care system!

To me, what the IoT represents is an opportunity for a fundamental change in the doctor-patient relationship, with empowered patients becoming full partners in their care through self-monitoring.  It will end the historic pattern, driven by necessity, of placing most emphasis on encounters in the doctor’s office, where the patient is forced to recall his or her symptoms, perhaps from several weeks ago, with no objective way of measuring them (not to mention factors such as “white-coat hypertension,” that may be induced by the very setting of the encounter. My blood pressure always goes up in my doctor’s office because she’s on the third floor, and I go up the stairs quickly rather than taking the elevator). Instead, the patient will generate a constant stream of data, and, over time, we will evolve efficient ways of reporting the spikes in readings to the doctor in a way that might actually trigger preventive care to avoid an incident, or at least provide an objective means of judging its severity to improve the quality of care.

Let’s also not forget about the benefits to seniors living alone and their families living miles away, of smart home devices.

I’m going to make this a major focus of my future IoT work, in large part because my personal experience working with seniors’ health needs has sensitized me to the wide range of issues that successful IoT solutions for senior must address:

  • ease-0f-use, especially for those who aren’t comfortable with technology or who face issues such as diminished vision or arthritis
  • non-stigmatizing: hey, grey hair is enough of an identifier: seniors don’t need other things that would further identify and isolate them
  • privacy and security: seniors are already targets of enough scams and efforts to exploit them: they don’t need to become even more vulnerable, especially regarding something as critical as their health
  • affordability: especially with devices that they might be expected to pay for entirely or in part. That can be difficult on a fixed income
  • can they encourage mutual support? I’ve seen first-hand how mutual support from an exercise group can encourage frail elders to keep exercising. Done right, I suspect apps that let you voluntarily share data might be very effective motivators
  • fostering independence: smart home apps that might help seniors manage household functions easily, as well as ones that could be monitored remotely by their adult children, might increase the chance they could stay in their homes independently for longer, an important factor in both reducing hospitalization costs and fostering self-worth.

What other factors do you think might be relevant to creating effective IoT devices for seniors?  Let me know.

The other day I had an e-mail exchange with one of my fav IoT pioneers, Dulcie Madden of Rest Devices, maker of the PEEKO “onesie” for babies, which (among other things) can reduce the possibility of SIDS among babies. Years ago, I was a day-care teacher, and now that I help care for seniors, I’ve noticed how similar they needs can be. IMHO, infant care and senior care are two of the most promising areas for life-improving IoT solutions. For both social and economic reasons, they should be a priority.

Let’s go!

 

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Sweet! The Internet of Things at Friendly Fenway! Let’s Play Two!

Posted on 4th April 2014 in Internet of Things, marketing, mobile, retail

There’s only one thing I love more than the Internet of Things, and that’s the World Champion Boston Red Sox — the personification of Boston Strong. Last year’s championship meant more here than the two most recent ones, because it went a long way toward healing the terrible pain we collectively felt in the Hub of the Universe after the horrible Marathon Day bombings.

— source: The Boston Globe

So what could be sweeter than to blog about the new MLB mobile app debuting at Friendly Fenway today as part of Opening Day! Overall, 20 0f the 30 MLB clubs will use it this year.

The app’s enabled by Apple’s iBeacon technology, and the presence of iPhone users who have Bluetooth turned on will be detected by the iBeacon sensors, just as at the Apple Store and a growing number of retailers, such as Macy’s.  According to the Boston Globe, not all features will be available immediately, but eventually:

“Patrons can use it to plan a full day at Fenway, from viewing the Sox’s schedule to purchasing electronics tickets that scan at the entry gates — even to plot the best route to the park. Once inside, iPhone users with Bluetooth enabled can “check in” and be detected by iBeacon sensors to receive special offers from the team. If David Ortiz blasts a home run, for instance, the Sox could instantly disseminate coupons for Big Papi T-shirts.”

According to Sox’ COO Sam Kennedy, the app will help the teams compete with the allure of in-home technology:

““Our huge competitor is the advent of incredible HD technology, so we have to make sure the experience at Fenway is better than the experience at home … Obviously, we’re biased — we don’t think there’s any substitute for coming to Fenway Park — but that is what we’re competing with. You have the time commitment and the cost, so we need to make sure that when you’re coming you’re getting a great, fully integrated experience.”

Last year one of my sons and I had the incredible experience of sitting in row two behind the backstop (thank you Ron & Lisa!), and in my mind nothing can compete with a day or night at the “lyrical little bandbox of a ballpark,” as Updike famously wrote. But for those with less of a passion or who don’t have such an historic ball yard to to visit, the app can make a competitive difference.

And now, as Mr. Cubs, Ernie Banks, would say, “It’s a great day for a ball game. Let’s play two”!

 

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My piece in Harvard Biz Review blaming #370 crash on lack of “Internet of Things” thinking!

Hey, everyone else has weighed in with an explanation on why Flight 370 crashed, so I did, today, with a piece in the Harvard Business Review blog in which I blamed it on lack of “Internet of Things thinking.”

May sound crazy, but I think it’s true, because of two of my “Essential Truths” about the IoT — two things that we can do now but never could before, which open up a huge range of possibilities for change:

  • limitless numbers of devices and people can share the same data on a real-time basis
  • for the first time, we can get real-time data on how devices are actually operating, even conditions deep within the device

In this case, if Malaysia Air had only been willing to pay $10 more per flight, it could have had a wide-ranging flow of real-time data from the plane’s engines. Under regular conditions this data could have allowed the company to tweak the engines’ performance, while also allowing them to do “predictive maintenance,” catching minute problems as they first emerged, in time to make safe, economical repairs rather than waiting until a catastrophic failure.

AND, it also would have allowed them during the crisis two weeks ago to have immediately switched to monitoring the engine data when voice transmissions ended, so they would have known immediately that the plane was still flying, in time to have launched planes to intercept the plane and land it safely.

HOWEVER, what was missing was this “Internet of Things thinking,” so they didn’t think expansively about the value of sharing the data.  They saved $10 per flight, but lost 290 people. Somehow the math doesn’t add up…

In case you missed it, great panel today on the IoT and government

Posted on 19th March 2014 in government, Internet of Things, US government

In case you missed it, old friend Christopher Dorobek put together a great (in all modesty, LOL …) panel today for his “DorobekINSIDER” series on GovLoop about how the Internet of Things will transform government.  I’ll try to summarize it in a later post, but you can listen in here!

#IoT ESSENTIAL TRUTHS: IF REAL-TIME DATA WAS SHARED MH370 MIGHT HAVE BEEN SAVED!

Pardon me for “shouting” in this headline, but I just had a stark realization that if one of my Internet of Things Essential Truths had been practiced by Rolls-Royce and Malaysia Air, Flight 370 might have been saved:

We have to start asking, where are there situations where real-time data from a variety of sources could help coordinate inter-related activities to improve safety & efficiency and reduce costs?

What I realized was that if Malaysia Air and Rolls-Royce and the air traffic controllers had simultaneous access to the real-time data from the engines’ sensors (rather than Rolls-Royce alone having it, simply to measure engine performance), the airline would have realized that the plane was still in flight, and planes could have been scrambled immediately to search for it, rather than waiting days before the data came to light.

That’s a bone-chilling reminder that with the IoT, we must always ask the question:

who else could benefit from having simultaneous access to real-time data?

Wow!

Join me for GovLoop discussion Wednesday about how the IoT will transform government

Posted on 14th March 2014 in government, Homeland Security, Internet of Things

Hi!  I’ll be joining old friend Chris Dorobek for his “Dorobek Live” discussion on GovLoop next Wednesday to talk about how the Internet of Things is changing government.  The discussion will take place from 2-3p ET (Sign-up information here: http://goo.gl/V6BPnW). Before hand, you might want to read the best piece I’ve seen about this transformation, The Coming of Age of the Internet of Things in Government. Be there or be square!

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Can Internet of Things help solve the Malaysia 370 mystery?

Posted on 13th March 2014 in Internet of Things, M2M, transportation

It appears from a Wall St. Journal article  that Malaysia Air 370′s Rolls-Royce Trent 800 engines may have had built-in sensors

Rolls-Royce Trent 800 jet engine

that allowed the engines to send real-time operating data to Rolls-Royce for analysis. According to the WSJ, the data may indicate that the plane flew for an additional four hours after its last radio transmissions.

Whether or not this proves to be true, it does give a preview of what life will be like when the IoT is fully functional: real-time data will become a critical tool in transportation management and safety. In this case the data might help locate the wreckage. In others, the fact that it will allow traffic controllers, whether on the ground or in the air, to react to danger in real time, will save lives. 

Seeing’s believing: the mother of all #IoT infographics is here!

Posted on 5th March 2014 in agriculture, design, Internet of Things, M2M, manufacturing, marketing

Like wow!  Trevor Harwood at the go-to IoT site Postscapes has teamed up with Harbor Research to create a “little” infographic (by my calculations it is about 2 miles horizontally by 3 miles vertically!!) that tells all you need to know about the IoT (download here: I wouldn’t attempt to do a screen grab: couldn’t do justice to it!).

I’ve been looking at it for several hours, and still haven’t processed all the information, but I think you’ll find it invaluable to introduce newbies to the IoT and all of its aspects (I was particularly impressed by several of the case studies that I hadn’t read about before).

Download it now, then study it carefully. Nice job!

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Libelium’s Alicia Asín Pérez: crafting an IoT leader from the ground up!

Any time you run into a leading IoT engineer who says she draws inspiration from the early NYC skyscrapers (Why? “..Most of them were built during the Great Depression and make me think that in big crisis like the one we are living there are also the greatest opportunities for creating amazing things.”) you know you’re in for some outside-the-box thinking!

Alicia Asín Pérez of Libelium

That’s the case with Libelium’s Alicia Asín Pérez, who I had a chance to interview just before she was to leave for this year’s Mobile World Congress, where Libelium unveiled its new Smart Water sensors, the latest addition to the eight-year old company’s impressive list of IoT sensors.

What impresses me the most about the company is how Asín and co-founder/CTO David Gascón have pursued their vision of an open-source system (their Waspmote platform “sends any sensors’ data using any communication protocol to any information system so that anyone can play in the IoT”) without compromise from when they started the company.

After attending the Universidad de Zaragoza, the young engineers decided to enter the decidedly un-cool field of hardware, not app design.

They didn’t want to get trapped into serving only one industry vertical (at present they’re serving smart cities, smart water, smart metering, smart environment, security and emergencies, logistics, industrial control, smart agriculture, smart animal farming, home automation, and ehealth.  Any areas they’re not serving?), so they refused to deal with VCs, bootstrapping the company before the days of crowdsourcing. They even appeared on a quiz show for entrepreneurs to get cash, and were prepared to head to Hollywood quiz shows (Asín knows a lot about a lot of subjects, LOL!) if need be.

Libelium is intent about focusing on open source solutions, walking their talk to the point of even using Linux computers.

They also get it about one of my “Essential Truths” of the IoT, that it “democratizes innovation.”  On one hand, Libelium has partnered with major firms such as IBM (with the “Internet Starter Kit”), and, on the other, 30% of its revenues come from its work with the “Maker Movement,” through its “Cooking Hacks” division, which includes:

  • +4000 products for DIY projects
  • Waspmote starter kits
  • Step-by step-tutorials to get started
  • A community forum

Asin sounds like a revolutionary with her call for “democratizing the technology of the Internet of Things,” and speaks proudly of how Libelium quickly created a Radiation Sensor Board used by an ad-hoc network of activists who documented radiation levels after the Fukushima accident. Speaking to Postscapes, she emphasized that while IoT projects by major companies are important, it’s equally important to use the IoT to empower individuals:

When you are in front of such a revolution, you can neglect individuals. It is a big mistake thinking about the IoT players as big companies or just companies. If we look at the general sociopolitical situation, at the citizen movements all across the globe, we see that individuals are just claiming more transparency and not depending on governments and big companies for accessing data: people want Open Data, Open Source, Open Hardware, Open Funding… Because of that, we see projects like Safecast for detecting radiation levels in Fukushima or Air Quality Egg in the Netherlands. People want to do things on their own and are finding support in all the crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and companies backing open hardware that allows them to access inexpensive technology. For example, we just launched a kit to experiment with eHealth and we have already sold more than 1,000 units. People are being more creative and innovative than ever, and everyone needs tools for doing that. Those ‘tools’ are sensors and providing them is our vision.” (my emphasis).

It’s too early in the IoT’s evolution to predict the ultimate winners, but I suspect that Libelium’s passion for open systems, its technical expertise at creating a growing array of sensors, and its ability to partner with both big and small firms will help it prosper over the long haul.

Follow-up: Winners in Postscapes’ annual best-of-the-IoT contest

Following up on my recent post on my favorite nominees for the 2013 Postscapes best-of-the-IoT contest, here are the actual winners.  What do you think??

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