It might seem unlikely to gather experts in computer science and gerontology, but just such an international conference is underway in Ames this week. Researchers from Iowa State University, from across the U.S. and from 14 other countries are taking part in discussions on how to create "smart homes" for the elderly. I-S-U computer science professor Johnny Wong is co-director of the university’s Smart Home Lab.
The "smart home" program is about using technology to allow for aging in place, so people with special needs and the elderly can live in their own homes as long as possible. Wong says research shows people who remain in their homes, instead of going into a care facility, often live longer, healthier, less expensive lives, while maintaining their independence. One example of the technology is the smart refrigerator, which Wong says can sense if you’re low on milk and send an alert to the resident and to the grocery store.
Wong says that way, the milk can be delivered to the home without having anyone make the trip to the grocery store. He says a smart home may use embedded computers, micro- and nano-systems and a variety of sensors to help the occupants with nearly every aspect of their lives. Wong says a smart microwave oven will pull useful data right off the box of frozen food.
A smart microwave can have a scanner that can read the box and display the nutritional information. Wong says it can also open the door so someone can just put the food inside and it’ll cook the food on an automatic setting. Conference attendees are discussing and demonstrating all sorts of assistive technologies, like devices and systems for vision, hearing, cognitive and communication impairments, health monitoring and intervention. The sixth annual International Conference on Smart Homes and Health Telematics is underway at I-S-U’s Scheman Building through Wednesday.