Are You Finding it Difficult to Live Independently at Home?

Louise Rogerson from Howz, explains to Anetha at Celebrity Angels, how their smart home monitoring system can help you maintain your independence for longer and give you, and your friends and family, assurance within the walls of your home.

What are the challenges of independent living?

Maintaining independence relies on the ability to identify your needs and ensuring those needs are met.  Recognising when you need help with everyday tasks is a difficult step and the fear of losing independence can create barriers to early conversations.  Not all changes are irreversible.  Sometimes exercises or aids can maintain independence. Spotting the need early can make a real difference.

How has technology developed to support those living independently?                                       

The biggest development is making technologies available to more people.  Innovations, which were once only available as luxury items, are now being used as assistive devices.  Examples include voice control, remote heating and automatic curtain closers.  Sensors are much more stylish and easy to install without wiring.  With apps and website access to systems, you can manage your own system.  It is important for you to be able to decide, who you want to share information with, and those friends, family members or carers receive an alert to either sudden or more gradual changes in your routine.

What are discreet home monitoring systems?

I would say a discreet home monitoring system is one you quickly forget is there! The people you chose to share your information with should not be able to see what your wearing or having for breakfast, but they should have the reassurance of knowing you are up and about and have switched the kettle on for example.

How are home monitoring systems installed and how do they work?

Howz’s smart home monitoring systems comes prepared for use, so it takes just minutes to install. You decide the best places to place the sensors and smart plug and the system quickly starts to build a picture as you go about your daily routine. You need to have Internet in your property but this is easy to resolve if you’re not currently connected.

How can energy data and sensors be used to discreetly monitor activity in this way?

Smart home technology  works together to build up a picture of what’s normal within an individual home. Although, where the sensors are used are really down to each person, so while for one person it might make sense to install the smart plug on the kettle, another person might get a better picture of their routine by using it on a microwave oven. Everything is designed to be flexible and, once installed, people tend to forget about it very quickly.

How long do these systems take to establish an activity pattern and how is the information then accessed?

It takes just seven days for the system to learn the household routine.  The information is shared via an app or through a website.

What are the benefits of home-monitoring systems for those living independently and for their families?

The reassurance home-monitoring systems provide is absolutely priceless. They don’t replace face-to-face interaction, or the need for a quick chat on the phone, but they can enrich those conversations. The individual and their family are reassured that they can continue to go about their normal routine while the system provides insight that everything is okay, or when changes are detected, without being intrusive.

What can a person expect to experience when living with monitoring systems or sensors in their home?

In all honesty, they will experience very little. While they are likely to gain confidence, most customers say the smart-home monitoring system has little impact on their life at home; it is just a subtle source of reassurance.  Changes are actually quite rare, but when they happen they will receive a notification that may prompt an action to be taken.

What should families consider when choosing a home monitoring system?

It is really important to look at a smart home monitoring system as part of an overall package of care and support, as everyone’s needs are different, and try to find out what other users think of the options you are looking at.  Ease of installation, security and accessibility all need to be considered.  For wireless systems, battery life also matters.

What is the future potential for smart home technology in regards to independent living?

We have an ageing population, so it’s really important to provide a range of options to support people to live independently for as long as possible.  More and more products will have integrated sensors that can be used to identify changes.  Assistive technologies, such as robots, may enable those with mobility issues to stay at home for longer.  As a physiotherapist, I am keen to see the balance between assistive devices and enabling devices to make sure people stay active!

The award-winning Howz Smart Home Monitoring system was created by a physiotherapist to help people live independently for longer. EDF Energy and Howz have been working together to develop the system further – its already in hundreds of homes and being trialled within the NHS. Howz learns routines within the home and spots changes early, helping you to act quickly.

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