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A Study on the Smart Home Technologies and Their Applications for the Disabled and Ageing

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A Study on the Smart Home Technologies and their Applications for the Disabled and Ageing

Swati Khuraniya Student, Manipal University Dubai

M.I. Jawid Nazir Manipal University Dubai

In an ageing world, maintaining good health and independence for as long as possible is essential especially for the elderly and the disabled who need to rely on others to take care of them. Now, due to advances in technology, inhabitants of these smart homes do not have to depend on anybody but with the help of these smart homes, these individuals can manage their daily lives specific to their own needs. Thus, the “Home of the Future” is now not only a possibility but also a reality. Smart home technology is a collective term for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as used in houses. The technology can be used to monitor, warn and carry out functions according to selected criteria by the disabled people. Smart home technology makes the automatic communication, via the Internet, fixed telephones lines and mobile phones. The purpose of this paper is to examine the technologies used to help people to overcome their dependence and health problems.

Keywords: Assistive technology, Disabilities, Ethical issues, Smart homes, Technology acceptance

1. Introduction
As we outgrow each phase of human life not only do our needs and requirements change but so do our views and beliefs on life. One integral part of our existence is independence, which we crave for all throughout our lives and fight hard to keep near the end. Thus, ageing becomes a sour truth in the existence of every inhabitant of the ageing world. In addition to the physical limitations such as blindness, deafness, mild hearing or sight problems, the aged feel emotional dilemma in every aspect of their lives. Keeping with the needs and demands of the disabled and elderly people, Smart Homes were built in the developed countries using a wide range of modern technology with an aim to provide a better quality of life and health to the disabled and the aged. Moreover, support from young individuals working in home and health care for the elderly is not certain. Therefore, the concept of smart homes becomes much more important. “Advances in technology will continue to reach far into every sector of our economy. Future job and economic growth in industry, defense, transportation, agriculture, health care, and life sciences is directly related to scientific advancement.” - Christopher Bond [1]

2. Objective
The main objective of this paper is to take a detailed look at smart homes along with the current technologies and how these technologies can be used by the disabled and the aging. Also the different options they can opt for depending upon their preferences and suitability. Finally, and most importantly, the impact with these technologies and the challenges faced in the acceptance of smart homes, by these particular users will also be discussed.


3. Smart Homes and their Assistances
„Smart home‟ refers to residences accoutered with technology that serve to integrate all the devices and appliances in an individual‟s home such that it is all controlled by a single remote . Figure 1 shows, several tasks can be controlled by a single remote. The postman, upon the ringing the doorbell can at once be scrutinized over a monitor installed in the living room. At the same time, in the kitchen, an oven begins to preheat, blinds cover the bedroom windows and the burglary-alarm is switched on – all by means of the operation of a miniature control device.

Figure 1, a remote controlled Smart home One of the best examples is Bill Gates house, which is built across from Seattle, on the shores of Lake Washington, and it is the 'Home of the Future' with all the automated hi-tech appliances. One of the important building components, aside from glass and recycled wood, is Silicon. Software that controls 100 micro computers will lets the user experience the home without having to pay attention to any technology at its heart [2]. Visitors are given a special pin to wear inside the house through which they are uniquely identified. This pin connects the user to the home's electronic service that automatically adapts it to the user and user‟s tastes/preferences [3]. As the visitors move throughout the home, the programmed pin allows them to hear their choice of music on the information appliance which is closest to them, and it also gives other people in the home an opportunity to listen to their own music preferences at that same time. So with the help of this hi-tech home, no one have to miss out on anymore of their favorite TV shows or movies, because they can take it with themselves, wherever they go. A person knows how /when the air conditioning is on and in case the user feels cold but is too lazy to get up and switch it off then the room temperature adjusts itself to suit the preference of a person and as an added bonus there are high resolution displays that will sense a person‟s presence and present electronic version of user‟s favorite art. Moreover, there are automatic lights that come on as someone enters the room while those in the rooms that a person has left behind turn themselves off. Not only this, if a person gets a phone call then only the phone nearest to that person rings, so it avoids disturbing other people. The home does all this automatically, with the help of the pin that a person wears. The home is also equipped with energy saving instruments, so if its bright outside, lights inside will match the brightness outdoors. There are manual switches to override the computer's decision [2]. Some of the smart home benefits are:

3.1 Multimedia and Entertainment
Smart House Services can make life “simpler” and more fun. Multimedia and entertainment can be used to train people in their daily activities or to foresee in the need to entertain oneself at home [5].

3.2 Comforts
Remote-access operation and availability of lighting, window-blinds, doors etc. especially cater to the physically handicapped allowing them greater comfort and independence [3].

3.3 Healthcare


Logistic support of the healthcare process is an important functionality. Utilizing forms of care communication offers relief to the work of healthcare professionals. The use of automated systems could support the reporting of performed activities. It could also be of assistance in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the work load. These systems become more portable and individual, for example, a video tape can be distributed to an ambulant healthcare professional, which can organize a more effective follow-up.

3.4 Energy management
In a smart home, devices such as timers, remotely-accessible devices, serve to decrease energy conception and operational costs, accouterment of such appliances are regarded as important irrespective of whether or not they cater to health and social service requirements.

3.5 Communication
Audiovisual and communication devices are of especial importance to those with mobility disabilities. Communication with acquaintances can help them stave off loneliness while direct communicable lines to their doctors and nurses will give them a semblance of safety.

3.6 Security and safety
Another Smart House application that is utilized quite often is the active personal alarming. At the push of a button an active speak/listen connection is initiated. This feature is becoming increasingly popular as its infrastructure can be extended with sensors (e.g. a smoke detector) which can trigger an alarm [6].

4. Recent Trends in Smart Homes Technologies
Smart home technology was developed in 1975, when a company in Scotland developed X10. X10 allows compatible products to talk to each other over the already existing electrical wires of a home [1]. The term „smart home‟ is used for a residence equipped with technology which is controlled by a remote centre or “Smart Homes” connect all the devices and appliances in your home so they can communicate with each other [2] that allows monitoring of its inhabitants and/or encourages independence and the maintenance of good health. Smart House systems consist of a large and wide ranging set of many services, applications, equipment, networks and systems that act together in delivering the “intelligent” or connected home. The technology can be used to monitor, warn and perform actions according to chosen criteria. For example, this can help people answer the door through an audio link, draw the curtains, use the phone or operate the television or lights, using switches operated with the head [3]. The development of services in this field is increasing every year, especially in the most rapidly growing consumer group, the elderly. These people have a substantial purchasing power. With the growing ageing society, this is a growing age group this can lead to a strong basis for “Smart solutions. Wireless technologies have clear advantages and drawbacks when applied to the smart home environment. Among the advantages, flexibility and easy installation are clearly important characteristics in this type of networks [2]. Among the drawbacks, clearly safety and security can‟t reach the levels which can be obtained with wired networks. Wired technologies involve the use of a cable which is either soft wired or hardwired into the home. The data is transferred through the cable to the devices enabling the devices to communicate with each other. Many companies are now developing Power line equivalents although the reliability of Power line has not been substantiated for use within housing for people with disabilities. Wired technologies are generally ideal for disability engineering and design for homes.

4.1 Types of Smart Home for the People with Disabilities
Smart houses differ from one another by the types and arrangements of the installed devices and can be classified into the following groups: 1) 2) 3) 4) Smart home for people with mobility impaired [4] Smart home for visually impaired [7]. Smart home for hearing impaired. Smart home for cognitively impaired [8].


5) Smart home for aging

4.1.1 Mobility Impaired
Mobility impaired are people who are affected physically, they will find it very difficult to access the equipment in the smart home, though they might be able to understand the devices but it will be difficult for them to make use of them like it will be difficult for such people to use switches and controls, where they have to use either their hands or legs to reach them.

4.1.2 Visually impaired
Visually impaired people are those who are fully or partially blind. These people will be unable to use devices with touch screen, receive graphical information, using keypads and read text on a screen or read printed matter like posture monitoring and blood pressure monitoring. They will find it very difficult to locate and access the equipments. It will also be difficult for them to use switches and controls and to handle manuals and using numeric keypads will provide a limited problem.

4.1.3 Hearing impaired
Hearing impaired people are occurred when there's a problem with or damage to one or more parts of the ear, which reduces their ability to detect the frequencies of sound partially or completely. Within a smart home, these people will be unable to use devices which receive audio information, understand speech and use speech as an input method. They will find it very difficult to locate equipment.

4.1.4 Cognitively impaired
This is a condition when a person has a developmental that affects cognitive or emotional functions to the extent that capacity for judgment and reasoning is significantly less or may be even impossible disorder (example, mental retardation). These people will be unable to handle pointing devices and understand speech. It will be very difficult for them to locate and access equipment, use switches, numeric keypads and touch screens. Also, to handle manuals and read printed matter, reading text on a screen, use speech as an input method and receive graphical and audio information will be a problem for these people.

4.1.5 Ageing population
Elderly people will have problems but to a certain extent while using switches and controls, numeric keypads, touch screens and speech as an input method. They will also have limited problems with accessing equipment, reading text on a screen, receiving graphical information and handling manuals.

5. Smart Home Applications
The following table will gives an insight into some devices that may be installed in the smart homes depending upon the disabilities: Table 1. Some Devices That May Be Installed In the Smart Homes Depending Upon the Disabilities Devices / Disability Light and door controllers Temperature controllers Home Security Devices Indoor navigation Devices Mobility impaired Yes Yes Yes Visually impaired Yes Yes Yes Yes Hearing impaired. Yes Yes Yes Cognitively impaired Yes Yes Yes Yes Aged People Yes Yes Yes Yes


Monitoring blood pressure Monitoring posture Virtual reality systems Monitoring Pulse Rate Human Machine interface

Yes/No Yes

Yes Yes



Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Yes Yes

Yes -

Within a traditional home environment, automation can help a person to control a device in another part of the house. Example, is the electric blanket on or off? Is the front door open or closed? It can assist communications and enhance both personal and building security. The people who are visually impaired have devices in their smart homes that are voice activated. Similarly, for people whose hearing is impaired, they have systems that alert them visually. For the people who are on wheel chairs, the average staircase can present a formidable obstacle. If technology can reduce the number of times that obstacle must be surmounted, so much the better , devices such as hand held personal computer can be used, these PCs can activate technology from anywhere in the house . The primary focus in the design of a smart home for the people with movement disabilities is the installation of the devices for assistance in mobility and manipulation, while the smart houses for aged people take into consideration changes in some of the organic functions of older persons [5]. Smart houses for cognitively impaired people are equipped with devices that provide support in structuring their daily activities in the house. For example, why not turn down the cooker? Why not close the front door? People who have short term memory problems such as those with head injuries or those with Alzheimer's disease may find this feature appropriate. The “SmartBo” project in Sweden, for example, it includes two-room ground floor illustrated apartment which contains technology for elders with movement and cognitive disabilities, such as developmental disability. Devices and sensors control lighting, windows, doors, locks, electrical power, stove, as well as visual signaling devices, speech synthesizers (Stephen Hawking is one of the most famous people using speech synthesis to communicate) and Braille display. A pragmatic instance of beneficial Smart House service can be understood as follows: If an aged woman with a visual impairment frequents the lavatory during the night then, between certain programmable hours the lighting in the bedroom and bathroom can be programmed to switch on at 50% opacity with a gradual increase such that it reaches 100% illumination within a minute. A pressure pad at the bedpost could serve as an indicator and upon return to her bedside the same indicator would ensure a reversed light-action. Additionally, if the aged woman does not return from the lavatory for a period of, for example, 30 minutes – an alarm is triggered. Smart home has got many applications, but in this paper four major applications has been discussed:

5.1 Human-Machine Interface
Human Machine Interface or HMI for short means where the area of the human and the area of the machine that interact during a given task [10]. Consider a scenario where an average person watching television needs to change the channel. There are two ways of achieving this goal; one being to get up to go to the TV and change the channel, while the other is to use a remote control. In a smart home finger gestures can enable a person to switch on/off the television or change channels with a simple hand gesture. Let‟s look at a similar scenario but where the user is disabled with motor paralysis but can speak. Here a communication support interface will come into play which can be controlled by the user‟s voice. With a voice controlled system, it will be imperative that all the functions be carried out by voice [12]. This will also include a voice output (with the assistance of a small in-built loudspeaker); even so a visual component is still crucial for the user to know the functionality he/she is controlling. This is clearly evident in the letter input experiments that were conducted on a virtual keyboard. The result was that the operating efficiency, processing speed, and accuracy were improved using this method.

5.2 Emergency call /alarm systems
Alarm system plays a very important role in smart home applications. Unfortunately, the existing systems are either too complex or appallingly inconsistent. The culprit is almost always the triggering of the alarm. For


example consider a system where in a case of emergency the user can raise an alarm by simply pressing a button on his/her neck. However, what if the user has an accident that leaves them hurt or unconscious? This renders the system useless. There are many detailed studies based on alarm systems, several research projects are also available, nevertheless there is a noticeable gap in the knowledge of how humans respond to highly emotional or stressful situations, for example, during a panic attack or maybe if they have confusion or memory problems (i.e. not remembering the location of the alarm button). The most appropriate solution would be passive alarms. Passive refers to a remote control based on polling methods. For this to work, a wrist transmitter with a probe attached must be worn by the user at all times. This will read and record vital signatures (pulse, blood pressures etc.) This information will be assessed by an evaluation system, which will automatically send a distress alarm as soon as there is a strong deviation in the standard values. This type of remote monitoring system, however, violates a multitude of ethical principles. It is for this reason that this solution is to be used only in special conditions and cannot be taken as a general solution [9].

5.3 Environment Control System
The different devices and sensors in the home are connected to each other and the controlling PC with wired serial links or wireless RF. The link is rather simple and low cost; there is no need of broadband or complex data transfer technologies. Environmental control systems are most often operated by a remote control, often through one command from the user resulting in one response from the system. Environmental control systems can be used without attaching to smart home technology. If a network or a data bus is installed, the integration of the two systems should be considered. Conventional installations and environmental control systems cannot monitor incidents in the house or effectuate automatic actions, as the integrated smart home technology can .

5.4 Lavatory and Lift Control System
The w/c in the smart homes also has some very interesting features. It flushes automatically; the toilet lid automatically opens and closes; automatic light for night-time use and a lot more [13]. However, in order to accommodate the w/c for disabled users, the design must be such that it allows for greater independence, safety, dignity, autonomy, or in a nutshell, a higher quality of life. The smart home w/c for disabled users should have features like controlling the toilet with speech recognition with the existing manual control. It should have alarms that sound when the user falls off the toilet and is unable to get up. Automatic flushing and auto operating toilet seats would also be an added bonus. Also, the disabled user, especially those that are paralyzed waist down will always find it difficult to operate the standard lift. However the lift in the smart home will be controlled by voice and a sensor control panel. There is a controller with voice recognition capability (to allow only registered users to use the lift), a programmable terminal and a logical lift program which will connect them all. This is most definitely a boon for the disabled population.

6. Discussions
Issues in the acceptance of “smart homes”
Due to increased life expectancy, improved medical health care, increasingly old, frail and disabled people we will need more medical care in the near future.  Lower Acceptance by Older Adults Older users‟ lower acceptance towards new technologies is seen in their low computer knowledge, and a completely different understanding of how technology works. Lower levels of selfconfidence are a serious obstacle when using technology [7]. Usability In order for the technology to gain popularity amongst the target consumer, the key challenges are usability and ease to use. Trustworthiness concerns the safety aspects and the personal integrity of a user. One key factor for usability is responsiveness. Commands must have immediate affects and immediate feedback. Complexity & Costs


The more devices included, the more heavyweight it will become i.e., complexity of the system totally depends upon the options that are chosen and the number of devices that are implanted in the home and the more complex a system is, the harder it is to maintain. The product should be compatible with the consumer‟s self image and life style [14].  User Involvement is Essential Lastly user involvement is essential in order to make a smart home something where user can and will live. The user point of view implies also ethical issues, which include, for example, it should be possible for the user to switch the systems on and off and change the rules according to which they operate.

7. Conclusions
The conception of a Smart Home is both exciting and exceptionally challenging. Much like the introduction of television, you may like it or hate it; but either way it is here to stay. With proper management between technical developers and representatives of the users of the systems, there is no reason why great repayment for all, should not result. The disabled and older adults are living longer and more fulfilled lives, and they desire to live as independently as possible with its risks and challenges. Many are happy to use a traditional technology to the modern applications. However, "smart house" systems allow the user to determine how they wish the house (or devices within the house) to work. They place the technology within the residence to boost functionality, security and quality of life by providing an environment, constantly monitored to ensure the individual is safe, automate specific tasks that an individual is unable to perform and alerting helpers in case of difficulties. Communication technologies can be used to keep people in touch with careers and loved ones, facilitating in the rehabilitation of individuals by giving prompts that could be auditory and/or visual which will enable and empower the user by assisting them in daily tasks. Several ethical issues and challenges need to be addressed, like negation of choice and control because of reliance on automation. Furthermore transfer of personal information to third parties, without proper consent is a risk. Also smart homes might reduce social interaction, or may provide tools that substitute personal forms of care and communication. In order to address these, smart home applications have to be evaluated on a regular basis and have to include the end-users in all stages. The main aspects that should be considered are that the system should be user friendly in design and interaction and secure/reliable, add value to the home, convenient, save money and time and disability friendly. Smart home technologies can revolutionize home care. Their success depends not only on the technical feasibility of specific devices but also on the level of their successful integration into everyday life and health care services. Thus, extensive and continuous evaluation can reveal challenges and allow for participants to provide feedback and improve the overall system.

[1] Trends in Japan. [Online]. [2] Molly Edmonds. howstuffworks. [Online]. [3] Pat Hurley Danny Briere, smart homes for dummies.: Wiley Publishing, 2009. [4] (2010, January) Bill Gates House-A Tour. [5] Guy Dewsbury, "Smart Homes for Disabled People in the UK," June 2009. [6] Tai-hoon Kim Rosslin John Robles, "A Review on Security in Smart Home Development," International Journal of Advanced Science and Technology, vol. 13-22, pp. 1-10, February 2010. [7] Disabled Living Foundation (DLF). [Online]. [8] Karen Clarke, Mark Rouncefield, Ian Sommerville, Bruce Taylor, Martin Edge2 Guy


Dewsbury1, "Designing Technology In Homes To Meet The Needs Of Disabled People," Technology and Disability Journal. [9] Ramón López-Cózar Zoraida Callejas, "Designing Smart Home Interfaces for the Elderly," University of Granada , Spain, 2009. [10] Roland Eckl and Asa MacWilliams, Smart Home Challenges and Approaches to Solve Them: A Practical Industrial Perspective., 2009. [11] Chris Adams. [12] Alexia Robinet,John McGinn,Vic Grout Armando Roy Delgado, "Assistive Human-Machine Interfaces for Smart," , 2007. [13] Kemal Coskun Martin Krafft, "Design Aspects for Elderly Using a Health Smart Home," University of Gothenburg, 2009. [14] Home Automation. [Online]. [15] Thomas Craig, Stacey Campbell, Jim Schaefer, Charles Humble Steven M Wright, "Patient Satisfaction of Female and Male Users of Veterans Health Administration Services," pp. 1-7, 2006. [16] Richard Harper, Inside the smart home. [17] Smart Home Systems. [Online]. [18] Shifar Smart Homes. [Online].


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