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These Companies Make Remote Monitoring for Seniors Less Intrusive

Satta Sarmah-Hightower
March 12, 2018

A network of sensors and a smart insole are paving the way for improved remote monitoring technologies.

Image via Thinkstock.com/Jupiterimages

Unfortunately, the public’s perception of remote monitoring devices has been shaped by an elderly person with a pendant around her neck, screaming “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” But times have changed, and technology has evolved to a point where keeping seniors safe in their own homes doesn’t have to be so conspicuous.

It can be nerve-wracking if you’re unable to physically check on an elderly parent or relative every day. Though remote monitoring technology has made this easier, it can often feel intrusive for seniors who don’t want to lose their independence. Now, a new class of these technologies aims to balance peace of mind and provide more actionable data for caregivers with a greater sense of discretion for seniors.

 

Remote Monitoring 2.0

Remote monitoring technologies have a variety of uses. While some function as emergency alert systems, others focus on tracking medication intake and improving adherence among seniors.

With the rise of the Internet of Things -- the concept of connecting all available devices to the internet and, as a result, connecting people to each other -- more consumer products now have sensors embedded in them, making it easier to track usage patterns and collect data. Remote monitor technologies often rely on a wearable device -- like a necklace or wrist bracelet containing sensors -- which allow caregivers to track key health metrics like heart rate, blood pressure, and even behavioral changes, all from miles away.

Today’s solutions are transforming how caregivers monitor loved ones by taking a more inconspicuous approach. New options include:

  • Canary Care, which uses battery-powered wireless sensors instead of an actual wearable device. Caregivers can place the sensors in various locations throughout a loved one’s home to monitor activity. The system relies on mobile data instead of Wi-Fi to send information, so a caregiver can simply log in to the Canary Care portal (or check texts or email) to find out what their loved one is up to.
     
  • TruSense, a network of smart home-connected devices designed to help seniors age in place. TruSense integrates with technologies like the Echo Dot and includes a motion sensor, contact sensor, smart outlet, and hub that all work together to provide real-time data for caregivers.
     
  • GPS SmartSole®, which launched in early 2016 and is one of the most innovative technologies on the market, bridging the gap between traditional wearables and more discreet monitoring.

Patrick Bertagna, CEO of GTX Corp, which manufactures the GPS SmartSole®, said the company developed the product after creating a GPS Smart Shoe.

“We wanted to keep all the attributes of the shoe, which is that it's inconspicuous, it's not invasive and it's something that someone usually always has on them, but we didn't want the encumbrances of, ‘Well, I don't like this shoe’, or ‘I don't like this color’, or ‘I have my favorite shoes that I really like to wear,’” Bertagna said.

Like a regular insole, caregivers can insert the GPS-enabled insoles into their loved one’s shoes, hiding it from the wearer, if they so choose. The GPS SmartSole® uses a combination of GPS, cellular, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi technology to capture data, log the location of the wearer, and wirelessly transmit the data to the cloud, where a caregiver can access it via a portal or an app. Caregivers can also preset a geographical zone and receive alerts when their loved one moves outside these boundaries. The technology is especially beneficial to keep track of aging parents who may have dementia or Alzheimer’s. The product retails for $299, and consumers can purchase a monthly plan to access the GPS monitoring services.

Bertagna said the product provides another option for caregivers who “don’t want to stigmatize or brand their loved one with the [remote monitoring] technology.”

“I'm a big believer in footwear as a great form factor for both GPS and non-GPS technology,” he said. “Shoes are consistent. They give you the most protection against the environment. It's something that every single person puts on when they leave their house. Any other kind of wearable doesn't have the same stickiness.”

Bertagna said he sees other future uses of footwear to not only monitor, but also improve senior health. GTX Corp is next moving its focus to insoles that provide biometrics, like information on activity, mobility, weight and heart rate.

There’s a “global trend of longevity,” according to Bertagna. So as people live longer, enabling them to age in place and providing caregivers with an extra set of digital eyes and ears could relieve some of the stresses and responsibilities that come with aging and caring for elderly relatives.

As these new technologies illustrate, if there’s a way to provide senior care in a non-invasive and non-intrusive way -- whether it’s within the sole of a shoe or a sensor in the home -- there are millions of Americans who will readily embrace it.

 

*Care.com does not endorse or recommend any commercial products, processes, or services. The views and opinions of authors expressed on Care.com do not necessarily state or reflect those of Care.com, and they may not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes.

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