University Initiative Targets Aging in Place Through Smart Homes

Indiana University (IU) is set to lead the charge on a $1 million initiative to establish a system of smart homes aimed at advancing the health and independence of older adults. The success of such a program could have implications for seniors remaining in their homes as they age.

IU received $670,000 of a $1 million grant from the Nation Science Foundation to establish the smart home network, deemed HomeSHARE (Home-based Smart Health Applications across Research Environments), according to a news release. The funds stem from the NSF’s Computing Research Infrastructure Program, and will 15 senior residents in Bloomington, Indiana, where IU is located.

Under the program, homeowners agree to have their homes fitted with certain technologies, like motion sensors. They’re also asked to wear an activity tracker, similar to a FitBit, and participate in periodic surveys via a tablet computer.

“Studying activities of daily living is a big topic,” Kay Connelly, an associate professor in the IU School of Informatics and Computing, said in the news release. “It’s when people can no longer perform them that you start to see the need to bring assistants into the home, or the need to transfer to assisted living facilities.”

In addition to monitoring activities of daily living to determine health and well-being, the survey data might point to seniors’ social networks, which also correlates with their health and independence, according to the release.

Another 15 homes will be similarly equipped near the University of Colorado at Denver, which also received a portion of the NSF grant. Other project partners are the University of Virginia, the University of Washington and Clemson University.

A software system developed by the University of Virginia, called Piloteur, will collect data from the homes. IU’s grant will support the programmers’ work to expand the software, in order to collect information from multiple networked homes across long distances.

This phase of the project, along with technology evaluations and the establishment of an internal review board, will take place in the first year of the project. Technology should be installed in one to two homes in Bloomington by the end of 2017 or early 2018, and all 30 home are expected to be set up by the end of the grant in August 2019.

Written by Kourtney Liepelt