Smart Home Technology–A Tool to Improve Quality of Services

According to the New York Times, a wide array of large technology companies, including Google (Nest) and Apple, as well as smaller firms like Canary and Smart Things, are working hard to make the “smart home” a commonplace reality in the near future.

A “smart home” is an all-inclusive term for the highly advanced group of systems (including technology and equipment) that enable functions such as automated security, entertainment, and energy. Smart home technology has been shown to increase functional autonomy in group-home residents, which directly leads to an increase in quality of life.

I’ve recently come across three current options in Smart home technology that are particularly interesting in this context.

The first is remote monitoring. Companies such as Rest Assured can set up a tele-care system in either an individual’s home or organizational group homes.These systems use cameras monitored by tele-caregivers. The residents can communicate with the tele-caregivers, face-to-face, via a TV monitor.This type of communication can be used for simple question/answers and for verbal prompts to complete ADL (activities of daily living) tasks, such as reminders to turn the stove off or check water temperature in a bath. Tele-caregivers can also notify residential on-call staff or family members in situations that need immediate, in-person attention. Remote monitoring can provide numerous in-home supports currently provided by direct care personnel.According to Rest Assured, this type of system is less intrusive than actual in-home staff, serves as added security from intruders, and decreases the risk of client abuse.

Embedded systems can also be a very helpful technology in group-home settings. These systems use wireless technology to place sensors and microprocessors in client-specific targeted locations.For example, if a resident has a seizure disorder, sensors can be placed on the bed, furniture, or clothing to detect rapid movements or moisture. Other sensors that detect heat and motion can also be placed throughout the home to develop a “typical routine” profile.Anytime these sensors pick up data outside of the “typical routine,” caregivers can be notified to check on the residents. Companies such as Elite Care use sensors to monitor vital-signs and other health-related markers. Staff and family members are able to check on a resident by accessing real-time data from embedded systems.

Finally, automated systems represent a technology that is useful in providing safety and security. Much like your own home security system, automated systems can control when doors are locked or unlocked, turn lights on or off, and control the ambient air. These systems are also capable of controlling when a stove/oven may be turned on, sending notifications of broken windows, and regulating water temperature.

At Grafton, we pride ourselves on working every day to improve our clients’ lives by increasing their functional autonomy.We are currently looking into implementing smart home technology in our 33 group homes.We believe that by adding this technology to our current trauma informed and positive behavioral support milieus, we will further enhance the lives of the clients we serve.While I do not believe smart home technology will eliminate direct-care staff in our homes, I do believe we can use these innovations to offer a less intrusive environment with a superior level of support, care, and safety.