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Smart Wall Panel Designed to Give Seniors Day-to-Day Help

Kerstin Wessig of TUM's Human Ambient Technologies Lab demonstrates the LISA wall panel (U. Benz / TUM)

Kerstin Wessig of TUM’s Human Ambient Technologies Lab demonstrates the LISA wall panel (U. Benz / Technische Universität München)

University and company researchers in Germany are designing systems to be built into the walls of older peoples’ homes to help with simple day-to-day tasks as well as monitor their health. A team from Technical University Munich (Technische Universität München, TUM) will demonstrate the Living Independently in Südtirol/Alto Adige or LISA prototype on 20 February at the Munich Creative Business Week conference.

The LISA project aims to provide technological tools for helping older adults remain independent longer, and deal with issues such as memory loss, restricted mobility, and the need for closer health monitoring. The solution devised by TUM’s Human Ambient Technologies Lab and its business partners combines tablet computing, wireless connectivity, and eventually robotics, as well as simple low-tech devices. Taking part with TUM on the LISA project are the companies MM Design, Frener & Reifer, Kompetenzzentrum Alpines Bauen, Pfeiffer Architekten, TIS Innovation Park, and Barth Innenausbau.

The centerpiece of the system is a wall-mounted tablet computer with a touch screen that stores important contact information, such as family telephone numbers, and connects to useful online services including public transportation schedules or weather forecasts. The prototype system also has an indoor positioning system that can track the whereabouts of frequently misplaced items, such as house keys or glasses. It can control as well automated home heating and ventilation systems.

In addition, the smart wall panel can track the resident’s vital health signs, including blood sugar level and and blood pressure, and recommend solutions — medication or exercise, for example — if the data are trending in an unsatisfactory direction. If the system detects a more critical problem, it can contact health care professionals. Likewise, the resident’s health care providers can check remotely on the person’s health data through the smart wall panel.

The Munich team aims to add robotics to help the resident move items, such as groceries, from one room to another. Not all of the system’s technologies are automated, however. The prototype wall panel includes coat hooks and a shoehorn at floor level.

Thomas Bock, who chairs TUM’s building construction and robotics program, says the LISA system is designed to give help as needed and not take control of the resident’s life. “We want people to retain as much of their independence as possible,” says Bock. “The assistance should only kick in when people are no longer capable of doing something themselves.”

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