Internet of (Caring) Things

                                              Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.. John Donne

A little bit of a background about the famous line of John Donne’s poem.The idea of tolling of the bell comes from the practice people would indulge in of going to the village/town church to ring the bell to announce that someone had died. So, the tolling of the bell would likely evoke the question: Who died? That is the context in which the poet is writing. So Donne is saying, that we are all interconnected and are all affected by what happens to someone else; hence, you need not ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for you, since you too are affected by the passing of another human being.

This famous line of John Donne got me thinking. that we all are aging, and we are aging every moment. But we as a Solution/Service provider community we don’t have a long term strategy in place to make the lives of aging population enjoy the twilight years.

In India, the number of nuclear family is increasing exponentially so IoT and other new wave technologies have the capability in their arsenal to improve the quality of life of the aging population.

The aging population has grown rapidly worldwide. In India findings revealed said that the number of citizens over the age of 60 jumped 35.5 per cent in 2011. In some countries, the sheer number of people entering older ages will challenge national infrastructures, particularly health systems. This numeric surge in older people is dramatically illustrated in the world’s two most populous countries: China and India . China’s older population – those over age 65 – will likely swell to 330 million by 2050 from 110 million today. India’s current older population of 60 million is projected to exceed 227 million in 2050, an increase of nearly 280 percent from today. 

The healthcare industry in India and most parts of the World is undergoing a huge transformation in a bid to move towards affordable, accessible, and quality care. New applications such as remote monitoring, a result of cutting edge technology innovations, are being developed to address the changing industry needs. This model of healthcare, which heavily relies on patient participation, and subsequent data analysis by microprocessors and microcontrollers, is changing the way health services are delivered. The connectivity between sensors and devices enables healthcare organizations to streamline their clinical operations and workflow management, and aids real-time patient care, even from remote locations.

IoT, in conjunction with cloud computing and big data, is creating lucrative opportunities in the healthcare sector. The reduced cost of care, improved healthcare outcomes, and development of high speed networking technologies are likely to drive the growth of IoT in healthcare.

Old age people have major share of health issues, what makes them more vulnerable is the cognitive impairment hence they are unable to report things that they would likely have reported if they had no cognitive impairment.

Dementia is an illness syndrome, characterized by cognitive and behavioral disturbances. memory loss is the main symptom of dementia although other areas of functioning are also affected. Mainly early stage dementia and this is where it becomes both interesting and challenging how IoT may be applied.

These include: attention, orientation, language, mood, personality, judgment, and visual spatial performance. Dementia progresses at an individual rate, but the first sign is often a gradual decline in memory. Despite memory decline, early stage dementia includes mild impairment in verbal expression, executive functioning, judgement, and physical abilities.

In the early stages of dementia, person with dementia have the best response to the therapeutic interventions and as a result, many people are living longer with milder symptoms. Person with dementia in the early stages are often able to remain active, but their personal identity may change due to the changes in their memory perceptions and ability. Due to the rapidly growing population of older adults and people affected with dementia, the cost of dementia care and the burden of the family will dramatically increase.

 Taking some useful strategies in the early stage of dementia may decline cognitive function decline and I believe this is were IoT has a major role to play.

Researchers around the world are searching for ways to prevent or cure dementia, and with pharmacological therapies offering only modest hope, non-pharmacological therapies that stimulate mental activity have emerged as a more promising therapeutic method.

Cognitive training shows promise for improving cognitive abilities or person with dementia in the early stages who are at high risk for continued cognitive decline.

Computerized cognitive training and virtual reality cognitive training along with IoT can help in assessing and training cognition. Cognitive training usually involves guided practice on a set of standardized tasks involving specific cognitive functioning including memory, attention, or problem solving. Computerized cognitive training can tailor task difficulty based on individual performance level and offer through individual or in groups. I earnestly believe eventually human behavior will co-evolve with the technology that we have and change the landscape of health and care. 

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  1. Keep it up. Very good information shared by you. Thanks

  2. Good summary of the opportunity, thank you both as someone interested in the area and someone who has an elderly mother going through the early to mid stage of dementia.

    Just to add a little to this, one of the key aspects is providing the means for people to stay in their own home as opposed to going into a nursing home. It may be surprising, but the main cause (at least in the UK) of people going into care homes is their loss of confidence in safety and security at home. Typical problems that cause this are their ability to remember things like locking the door, turning off the cooker, leaving windows open and such like, rather than what we might think is a bigger issue of, say, mobility.

    There is also an important cost implication to the individual and the state of someone going into a nursing home: in the UK a few years ago the figure was an additional £1k per week in costs, so it’s obvious there’s a market there, isn’t it? Unfortunately in the UK there is an issue that the budgets for health care and social care are not connected, so keeping someone at home would cost the social budget money, but benefit the health budget. Crazy. (and apologies for all the bureaucracy the UK exported to you in earlier times….!)

    Lastly, the important thing is to make the deployment, use and security of IoT devices easy; it’s alright having some whizzy tech that can do all sorts of great things, but if it’s hard to deploy, isn’t easy to use and has security issues, it won’t fly as a product. There’s a massive opportunity to both improve lives and create wealth, so get out there and do it!

  3. Hi Jules, Thanks for your response.

    The last paragraph of your comment speaks volumes about the current status, yes there is money to be made but evidently we need to have a foolproof mechanism of IOT devices deployment and its perfect use case before we start working on deployment of IOT devices for dementia patients.

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