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Your house could soon be smarter than you

All of the big players in the artificial intelligence industry are desperately trying to compete for domination in the soon-to-be booming smart home market. The prediction is that in the near future we can expect our houses to come with AI tools that learn our behavioural patterns and turn on heating, cooling, lights, music and more before we think to do it ourselves.

Currently, Amazon Echo and Google Home are leading the home assistant market. But both products require commands and are far from intuitive. They also require a certain amount of technical nous, so may be limited to people who are confident with the ever-changing technology landscape. This means older Australians, who can arguably benefit from these tools the most, mightn’t be inclined to install them.

Outsmarting old age

A Deakin University research team has looked into the importance of digital assisted living for the elderly and produced market-leading technology in the process. According to Andrew Vouliotis, Product Manager in the Deakin Software & Technology and Innovation Lab, in Deakin’s Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment, this technology can enhance the lives of the elderly.

Vouliotis and the team have found that ageing Australians need more than a speaker they can communicate with. The technology must be sophisticated enough to detect unanticipated change in the home. ‘It’s distressing to move a family member from their home to aged care, especially if the person can go on living independently,’ Vouliotis explains. He says the product they have developed, Sofihub, can provide peace of mind to an elderly person who’d like to go on living at home and also remove much of the worry for family members who can check in on them via an app.

Sofihub sensors can be installed in the home to detect behavioural anomalies, such as a person not getting out of bed or potential accidents in the bathroom. ‘It gives the person a chance to react to a message. If something has happened, it can alert a carer,’ Vouliotis explains. The lab has recently partnered with the City of Greater Geelong to run trials across the Bellarine Peninsula and had great success.

'It gives the person a chance to react to a message. If something has happened, it can alert a carer.'

Andrew Vouliotis,
Product Manager, Software & Technology and Innovation Lab, Deakin University

Watching without invading

Professor Kon Mouzakis, Director of Deakin’s Software and Technology Innovation Lab, has been working in the field of digital health for many years. He says prior to the rollout of systems such as Sofihub, people caring for older loved ones have tried tools such as pendants and watches to track movement, but Mouzakis and Vouliotis were quick to point out that these items weren’t flawless. ‘Pendants and watches require the user to wear the device or have the device in reach if they require assistance. They also have a stigma attached to them – it makes them feel old,’ Mouzakis says.

By contrast, Sofihub can provide comfort and support without encroaching on personal space. ‘In terms of non-invasive technology, we’re at the forefront. There will be big demand for it. Everyone we’ve talked to want it in the home,’ Mouzakis adds.

As AI continues to grow exponentially, the most exciting part is that the AI begins to learn lifestyle patterns. It’s more than installing a motion sensor that turns a lamp on when someone walks into a room. And it’s just the beginning – the team has an exciting pipeline of work in digital assisted living taking place in the lab. So while this generation is beginning to retire with the assurance that they can go on living independently, old age will only continue to get better.

Interested in home innovation? Consider a range of courses available in Deakin University’s Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment

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Andrew Vouliotis
Andrew Vouliotis

Product Manager, Software and Technology Innovation Lab, Deakin University
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Professor Kon Mouzakis
Professor Kon Mouzakis

Director, Software and Technology Innovation Lab, Deakin University
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