Monitoring meaningful activities using small low-cost devices in a smart home


A challenge associated with an ageing population is increased demand on health and social care, creating a greater need to enable persons to live independently in their own homes. Ambient assistant living technology aims to address this by monitoring occupants’ ‘activities of daily living’ using smart home sensors to alert caregivers to abnormalities in routine tasks and deteriorations in a person’s ability to care for themselves. However, there has been less focus on using sensing technology to monitor a broader scope of so-called ‘meaningful activities’, which promote a person’s emotional, creative, intellectual, and spiritual needs. In this paper, we describe the development of a toolkit comprised of off-the-shelf, affordable sensors to allow persons with dementia and Parkinson’s disease to monitor meaningful activities as well as activities of daily living in order to self-manage their life and well-being. We describe two evaluations of the toolkit, firstly a lab-based study to test the installation of the system including the acuity and placement of sensors and secondly, an in-the-wild study where subjects who were not target users of the toolkit, but who identified as technology enthusiasts evaluated the feasibility of the toolkit to monitor activities in and around real homes. Subjects from the in-the-wild study reported minimal obstructions to installation and were able to carry out and enjoy activities without obstruction from the sensors, revealing that meaningful activities may be monitored remotely using affordable, passive sensors. We propose that our toolkit may enhance assistive living systems by monitoring a wider range of activities than activities of daily living.

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Funding for this project was provided by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

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Correspondence to Dympna O’Sullivan.

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Tewell, J., O’Sullivan, D., Maiden, N. et al. Monitoring meaningful activities using small low-cost devices in a smart home. Pers Ubiquit Comput 23, 339–357 (2019).

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  • Internet of Things
  • Smart homes
  • Passive sensors
  • Passive health monitoring
  • Meaningful activities