The pace of technology deployment over last five years has been phenomenal but all to the good. It is very difficult to draw lines between developments.
The buzzwords we have seen bandied around have been confusing but they fall into three main areas.
- Assistive Technology
- Smart assistive technology SAT
- Technology Enabled Care TECs
- Internet of things. IoT
It is not possible to link all these in a straight line assuming the next supercedes the former. In fact each level of technology advance still has its place depending on what you want to achieve.
Assistive technology can be traced back to the eighties but then, AT really revolved around material product rather than any particular level of technology. Chair lifts, hand rails, Zimmer frames, kettle pourers were all looked on as Assistive Technology.
They still have their place as a common sense standard so AT can be considered very valid for creating a static safer environment to live in. Assistive if you like.
Coming on from that, we had the advent of specialised sensor units, mains powered, designed for a specific task. Bed wetting, epilepsy door mats, bed sensors. When activated they made a noise to attract attention of carers but not any sort of “online” technology.
That was provided by the use of analogue phone lines which could interact with a push button to send a string of data to a call centre who could respond verbally. An advanced version is the pendant round the neck but basically using the same technology.
It is interesting to note that due to the advance of digital exchanges, this string of analogue data now has to deal with probably a series of digital exchanges which has caused issues with corruption or truncating of the string. Work is in hand to update the protocols but that is not yet clarified. Technology rolls on!
That last group really falls into the Telecare definition.
Meanwhile coming up on the outside we see the advent of smart phone apps which while mainly preoccupied with personal fitness, have now progressed into all sorts of apps (some 93,000 I believe) which are borderline medical/home use devices. Medical devices need stringent certification so most apps tend to stick outside of that. Many GPs look askance at this “hobby” health checking but are coming to accept there is a value.
Wearable technology is also becoming a market driven factor on its own but there again they are singular devices with specific focussed target outcomes.
So the latest kid on the block is IoT. Whereas all applications mentioned above are singular devices, reporting through bluetooth to a smartphone, IoT is looking at providing a general platform where multiple sensors can report via a local network to a server in the Cloud that can store and display data from multiple inputs. At the moment those inputs tend to cater for assessments or the general wellbeing of an individual. A good example is MimoCare. They are, if you like, replacing the old Telecare devices but all connected into one system.
The defining factor here is that these IoT networks are ‘data rich” to use the jargon. Not just alerting but collecting real data that will have future outcomes in preventative care. Mimocare is already looking at trend analysis using that data with regard to predictive care…… More on that later
What will happen next is that we will likely see a coming together of all these sensors, including bluetooth data, onto an IoT network such that its data is stored as general record of a patients well being and health and available to clinicians, GPs and carers over the Internet.