5G and IoT improving lives of the older adults
World population is ageing
Population ageing, as a demographic trend of the increase in the number and percentage of older adults in the global population, is considered one of the most important social transformation of the 21st century. The number of older adults, those aged 60 and above, is more than twice as large today as it was 35 years ago, and it is estimated that the number and percentage of older adults will double by 2050. It is the first time in history that by 2030 the number of older adults will outnumber children aged 9 years and younger. By 2050 it will even outnumber the adolescents and youth aged 10-24 years. Increased longevity together with declining fertility are key drivers of population aging globally. Population ageing presents new challenges to national healthcare, insurance and economic sectors.
The Active Ageing is replacing outdated vision
Unlike in the previous socio-demographic era when the older adults were often marginalized and ignored, we are more and more witnessing a new vision where older adults are routinely being recognized as target market segments for increasingly diverse range of products ranging from travel to technology. In this positive vision all older adults, regardless of interest or (dis)ability are included as a full-fledged citizens. With more participation comes also more empowerment to drive certain changes and developments. The process of optimizing the opportunities for health, participation and security to enhance quality of life as people age is what the WHO considers by “Active Ageing”. It allows individuals and groups to realize their potential for social, physical and mental wellbeing while providing them with appropriate protection and care when they need it.
Technology is here to help
Longer life does not necessarily mean longer healthier life. No matter how much life expectancy is increased, it is the prolonged life with grater quality that matters. The technologies that are aiming at providing support for active aging with greater quality of life, often named Ambient Assisted Living Technologies, show a great potential in coping with these challenges and strive towards ICT-enabled independence of older adults through building Enhanced Living Environments. The 5G and IoT are here seen as an enabler for creating truly pervasive sensing and supporting environments. Embedding of increasingly more affordable and mature intelligent objects in the environment to enable older adults to live independently for as longs as possible implies interdisciplinary approach towards solving users’ specific pain points.
IoT is the key enabling technology
Smart sensors and devices are finding place in our homes, offices, cars and cities monitoring the activity and often automating our tasks to make our lives easier. The homes of the older adults in general follow the same trend but with some differences. Differences range from the expected and needed functionalities, trust and privacy issues, to ways of user-system interaction. Internet-connected sensors and actuators enable learning and reasoning upon user environment and user activities that can lead to appropriate short-term and long-term reaction. Fusing and aggregating multiple heterogeneous information streams imply handling imperfect and temporal information. Newly discovered knowledge is used for adapting models over time to serve the needs of the end user(s). Without IoT as the enabling technology “smart” and supporting environments would not be possible.
There are many areas to address
Older adults are often described as homogeneous group, but they are anything but. Every individual has specific interests, personality, culture and lives in specific location, culture and community. Sensors and actuators, connectivity and intelligent applications are combined in different ways depending on the specific use case scenario. Health monitoring, wellbeing, home safety and care, lifestyle, social interaction, mobility are all among areas being addressed. However, much work is still needed to bring the results to the market and to make them even more usable and affordable. Solutions such as fall detection and alarming are supporting the independent living by offering peace of mind to both the person living alone and her/his (formal or informal) caregivers or family members. Fall detection solutions range from sensing-floors, body sensor networks, smart footwear, camera-based systems, wearable devices and in most cases contact designated person such that they can take further actions. Solutions like interactive telepresence robots prevent social isolation and much more. From the perspective of the end-user such solutions allow more autonomous living and positively influence their quality of life.
New technology advancements push the boundaries further
Over the years the solutions that we are seeing has progressed from more straightforward like reminders for taking medications (that are still useful and needed) to more advanced that can unobtrusively monitor user’s daily activities, recognize and learn changing patterns and deliver the value to end users or their caregivers that would not be possible without the supporting (IoT and 5G) infrastructure. New advancements, including Artificial Intelligence, push the boundaries even further and enable even more autonomous systems, relieving the users of the burden of constant (re)configuration which in turn helps with making systems easier to use and thus much more attractive and useful for the elders. But it is not only about massive and critical IoT, combined with AI and automation that will enable better care for older adults and enable them healthier and longer independent living.
5G paves the way
5G introduces the ability to transfer the sense of touch due to extremely low latency and increased reliability. Utilizing sight, sound and touch simultaneously opens a wide range of new and exciting opportunities to assist older adults and society as whole. 5G is further expanding the capabilities of mobile networks and addresses challenges of global data grow and new diverse applications with demand on even higher bandwidth, capacity, security and lower latency. But the 5G is much more and it is presumed to become a platform that enables fast development and easy operation of diverse networked society applications. By delivering better performance on multiple levels it will be the foundation for improving efficiency and transformation in the industry and society. Another interesting aspect of 5G is that it could be an ideal platform for achieving highly efficient indoor and outdoor positioning. Large antenna arrays and wide bandwidths which, in turn, enable highly accurate direction of arrival (DoA) and time of arrival (ToA) estimation can be exploited to make the localization and tracking more robust and efficient than ever before. Positing service plays a crucial role in detecting situation if older adult gets lost or wonders, and even help older adult in navigating to their homes. Additionally, high-precision indoor localization can improve realization of various assisted living scenarios such as real time assistance, fall detection, behavior monitoring, and anomaly detection.
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