New AI tool monitors elderly health at home

Engineers are using AI and wireless technology to detect health problems of older people in their homes at an early stage. The new system, developed by researchers at the University of Waterloo, collects vital information without the need for a wearable device.

The work by George Shaker, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and his colleagues comes at a time when overburdened public health systems are struggling to meet the urgent needs of a rapidly growing elderly population. While an elderly person's physical or mental condition can change quickly, it's nearly impossible to track their movements and detect problems around the clock - even if they live in a long-term care facility. In addition, other existing systems for monitoring gait - the way a person walks - are expensive, difficult to use, impractical for clinics and unsuitable for homes.

The system now being developed is said to be a major step forward and works as follows: 

First, a wireless transmitter sends low-power waves through an indoor space, such as a nursing room, apartment or house. The waves bounce off various objects and the people being monitored, and are detected and processed by a receiver. This information feeds into an AI engine that decodes the processed waves for detection and monitoring applications.

The system, which uses low-power radar technology, can be easily mounted on a ceiling or wall. This gives it advantages over portable monitoring devices, which can be inconvenient and require frequent recharging.

The researchers have partnered with Canadian company Gold Sentintel to commercialize the technology. It has already been installed in several long-term care homes.