A more accessible world
The Internet of Things is growing at a phenomenal rate. In fact it’s pretty certain that there won’t be any part of our lives that isn’t affected by an IoT device within the next decade.
According to Intel, by 2020 there will be 200 billion smart objects around the world – that’s around 26 for every person on earth.
In 2016 alone, global spending on the IoT was $737 billion, and one of the sectors spending the most was healthcare. This included spending on things as simple as bed sensors and room temperature monitors, through to predictive maintenance to ensure critical medical equipment is always working.
There’s also talk of intelligent fridges for storing treatments, and already major advancements are being made in using smart technology to diagnose diseases.
ACT, an organisation that represents over 5,000 mobile technology companies, predicts a connected healthcare market worth $117 billion by 2020.
But one group of people already hugely benefiting from the IoTs impact on healthcare services are those with disabilities.
Making life easier
Simple things for most of us, such as switching on a light, closing the blinds, turning the heating up and answering the front door are almost impossible for many people with physical disabilities.
However, smart technology is allowing those who may not be able to manage by themselves to live relatively normal lives in their own homes.
Personal virtual assistants
Devices like the Amazon Echo and Apple’s HomeKit are enabling people to operate many functions in their home with just their voices.
But that’s not the only benefit. They also help prevent people from feeling cut-off from the outside world, by being able to answer questions, tell them what the weather’s going to be like, what the latest news stories are and pretty much anything else they want to know.
They can also place orders for things to be delivered to the house, allowing people to live a much more independent life.
When it comes to security, connected homes can make people feel a lot safer – imagine there’s a knock at the door and you don’t know who it is, nor can you let visitors in either.
Smart technology lets people see who’s there with voice-activated cameras, and visitors can let themselves in with door locks that open using their phone, such as the Yale Keyless Connected Smart Lock and the August Smart Lock.
According to statistics compiled by statista.com, last year alone $2.58 billion was spent worldwide on smart home security.
The smart kettle has been around for some years now, whereby relatives can tell if someone is okay by whether they’ve boiled their kettle in the morning or not. But there are now a whole host of more advanced objects, such as a connected smart lock.
A smart lock allows people to enter the home using an app on their phone. Every time someone enters data is collected to show who it is and their time of entry. This means that carers and relatives can come and go whenever they need to without needing to be let in, but it also allows families to monitor and control who enters.
You can provide people with long-term access or add them to the whitelist for a limited period of time (for example if you’re just having a cleaner pop by for a few hours a week and don’t want them having access for the whole week).
While there’s still a way to go before self-driving cars are in use en-masse, the possibilities they present are huge. Health conditions can have a massive impact on people’s ability to drive a car. And if you suffer with paralysis or vision impairment, you may never have the opportunity to drive a car at all.
However, with a self-driving car you could be motoring along to wherever you need to be without a problem, bringing independence like never before.
At CES 2017, both Ford and Volkswagen discussed big plans to integrate Amazon’s virtual assistant into its cars, so that features of the car can be controlled from your home and vice versa. For example, you could start defrosting the windscreen before you leave the house and then once in the car continue listening to an audiobook that you had been playing in your home.
There are many smart inventions still being tested that will help the elderly and people with disabilities.
Major advancements are being made in wearable technology that can predict health problems such as heart attacks and seizures before they happen.
But there’s one invention in particular that, when it becomes available for home use, will be truly amazing.
The exoskeleton is a wearable device that can prevent the elderly and people who are unstable on their feet from falling. It learns the walking patterns of the wearer and uses an algorithm to spot variations and detect the onset of a fall. It then applies force to prevent a fall from occurring, and can even reduce the amount of energy people need to walk. So not only can people walk without fear, but without expending a lot of energy too.
According to the World Health Organisation falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide, and 37.3 million falls that are severe enough to need medical attention happen each year.
Exoskeletons are already being used in rehabilitation centres around the world, with the IoT enabling them to collect patient data to aid improvements.