On the 8th of Jan, we (Health Informatics) students had a study visit to what is called a “Smart Home” in Stockholm. We’ve seen two types of Smart Homes. One which is designed to relatively younger and disabled people and the other is designed for elderly ones.
I think the first picture you’d think of when you hear those words is a place full of touchscreens and buttons and robots that would do almost everything automatically. We were also expecting something like that, but we were sort of surprised when we entered the first apartment that it looked just like any other apartment. No walls that are used as touchscreens, barely any visible buttons and no robots! I think I was temporarily disappointed. After a minute or two when our guide started to explain all the smart solutions they had to make life easier for disabled people, I just realized that looking just like any normal apartment and having all those “tweaks” is actually a smart solution itself.
Let’s see how the first model looks like…..
As it might seem, they look just like any regular kitchen/dining room and bedroom. A closer look would explain what is “smart” about them.
You see a smartphone beside the bed. This smartphone is capable of controlling all the lights of the whole apartment (Turn on and off) in addition to locking the doors and unlocking them. Once you set up the alarm clock for example and you wake up, the phone will make sure that you get enough light to find your way to the bathroom and the kitchen for example. It also controls the curtains. So before you go to sleep and after you wake up, you are able to control those things just by a few touches.
The quilt has some metal additive to make it heavy. This makes it more like what is called a “Comfort Object”. This approach has been used for a long time to provide some degree of security to people while they are sleeping. (I tried it myself and it is really fantastic!!)
While you’re asleep, the system also makes sure that you get enough light so that you can find your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night by lighting the door of the bathroom
Moving to the kitchen, you have all the modern everyday devices (fridge, dishwasher, regular and microwave ovens and stove) in addition to utensils, cups and dishes…etc. Everything is arranged so that they are easily accessible and don’t occupy much space.
The extractor hood above the stove has sensors which detect overheating and automatically turns off the stove to avoid fires.
The fridge is not your typical big fat fridge. It’s actually composed of two drawers. This would help you arrange things in a more convenient way and find them easily. (Think of all the trouble you go through finding things in your fridge)
Many of the items are adjustable so that you can move them and place them at the right height. An example of this is the microwave oven. It can be moved up and down using control buttons. The best thing about this (for clumsy people) is that if there was something under the microwave and you tried to pull it down, the special sensors would detect that the way isn’t clear and wouldn’t change the microwave’s position.
If you’re on medications, there’s a special sensor beside the place where your medications are placed which detects whether you made the move to reach them or not. If not, it notifies a relative or the care giver. Of course this is not the best possible solution to detect whether the person took his/her medications or not, but in one or way or another, it’s better than nothing!
Speaking of sensors, beside the entrance door, there are two sensors. One which detects that there’s a person entering and makes sure that enough light is turned on so that he/she would find his/her way. The other one is a falling sensor which detects whether someone fell beside the door and notifies the care giver.
As you noticed in some of the pictures, there are 2 tablets and a smartphone. All of them are capable of controlling many items in the apartment using the same preinstalled program. In addition to that, they notify you if your regular mailbox is full/empty.
There’s also a smart TV (Smart TVs have been commercially available since 2 years I think) which allows you to browse the internet, make Skype (or other VOIP) calls and watch online streams.
The apartment has a small workroom and a bathroom (of course). I didn’t include them in this post because they are more or less what you’d find in any apartment.
The apartment isn’t completely finished and there are many “gadgets” and sensors to be added.
Hope this wasn’t boring! In the next post I’ll highlight the other model which is designed for elderly people. Stay tuned!