February 2, 2013
Technology is meant to make your life easier, to adapt to you and your lifestyle rather than the opposite. And where could technology and connectivity benefit you the most? In your home. Gone are the days of wrestling with a high-tech gadget for 30 to 60 minutes just to program it correctly; the same gadget that was meant to help you accomplish a task 10 minutes faster. These days, technology had better work for you, or it won’t last long in this fast-paced world.
Gone are the days of technology being just for “techies.” The use of technology is so widespread and pervasive that it has become accessible to everyone. Suppliers have made their products more user friendly, more affordable and more available. Because of this, home connectivity — linking your home appliances, technologies and gadgets together for enhanced use and easy programming — has become an easier, realistic way to augment your life. With true home connectivity, all electronic functions throughout the house can be wired to a central command and connected to each other. Through this, programming, controlling and adjusting your settings and preferences for all devices, whether it’s the computer, the cable or the coffee pot, would be easy and efficient.
In the past several years several corporations, such as Corning, have been devoting some of their research and development into the concept of a Smart house. A Smart house is a house in which all appliances (microwave, washing machine, surveillance cameras, etc.) and environmental control elements (thermostat, lighting, etc.) are inter-connected and linked to the Internet. The workings of the entire house can be configured from anywhere in the world through the Internet.
Elderly people who want to remain in their homes for as long as they can may one day get help from an unlikely source: the homes themselves. Currently the State of Maine has the oldest population in the United States per capita. ''The elderly are going to be an enormous slice of the total population,'' says Dr. Jim Larson, a computer scientist at the Intel Architecture Labs in Hillsboro, Ore. Intel sponsors some smart-home research projects directed toward older people. These Smart houses would use the growing power of computer networks and sensors to help the elderly avoid or postpone institutional care.
Inexpensive sensors that detect sound or vibration (and send that information to a computer) could, for example, monitor footfalls to analyze the pace at which someone climbed the stairs or moved between rooms. If a pattern changed -- perhaps because of a sudden weakness in gait -- the system could alert friends or family living elsewhere. Other systems such as the Corning Architectural Surface Glass (kitchen countertop and stove) and the Corning Architectural Display Glass (interactive bathroom mirror) could provide low-key help for lapses in memory by providing reminders for the names of people or objects or documenting tasks with a camera so people who were interrupted, say, when cooking could return to the stove on the Corning Appliance Veneer Glass, examine the images from the Corning Architectural Surface Glass and take up where they left off. The technology could also remind people to take medications, eat or drink water.
With the market for such services expected to be huge, technology to make it possible is in the works at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Elizabeth Mynatt, a computer science professor at Georgia Tech, said it was important to take families' concerns into account when designing technology for the elderly. The team is working on displaying information on an Internet device that would look like a picture frame containing a photo of the elderly person; for now, the display is shown on a computer monitor. Around the photo are butterfly or flower icons that grow larger or smaller to indicate the person's activity...