Wonderwall: High-tech home-assisted living for the elderly
Researchers from the Munich University of Technology (TUM) have created a high-tech wall designed to help the elderly continue to live at home by providing assistance in everyday tasks and monitoring their health. The "wonderwall" can find misplaced keys and glasses, check blood pressure and blood sugar levels and, in the event of a critical health problem, call the local doctor or mobile nursing service.
The Living independently in Südtirol / Alto Adige (LISA) project headed up by Human Ambient Technologies Lab at TUM is showcasing the wonderwalls system in a "smart entrance hall" that will be unveiled on February 20 at Munich Creative Business Week.
Based around a tablet computer mounted in its wardrobe-like panel, the wonderwall system blends into the look of a normal house – it even comes with all the usual hall fittings, including coat hooks and even a shoe horn right at the bottom.
It features an “indoor positioning system” that keeps track of mislaid items like keys and has an integrated air conditioning system which automatically keeps air circulating in the apartment if the resident forgets to turn it on.
The system also includes with biosensors which zero in on key vital signs like blood pressure and blood sugar levels. After assessing the health of the individual, it could be programmed to come up with suggestions like going out for walk, or perhaps even suggest medication. If things turn critical, it can notify a physician or other health professionals who can also be hooked into the system to regularly check on the patient.
The system would also provide access to regularly used information from bus timetables to family phone numbers to the weather forecast.
The researchers plan to build similar models for other rooms around the house, each custom designed for a particular room. The wall in the kitchen, for example, could come with easy-to-reach cupboards and help with the cooking by monitoring the stove top. The project also envisions the integration of a mobile robot that could help out by carrying items from one room to another.
Prof. Thomas Bock of the TUM Chair of Building Construction and Robotics says the aim is to keep the elderly independent for as long as possible.
“The assistance should only kick in when people are no longer capable of doing something themselves,” Bock says. “For that reason, the walls will have a modular design, with new functions added as and when required.”
The researchers say that the prototype has been tested extensively and there are plans to release it to the market.
The LISA project brings together the TUM institutes of Building Construction and Robotics, Philosophy and Science Theory and the recently created Munich Center for Technology in Society. Businesses involved in the project are MM Design, Frener & Reifer, Kompetenzzentrum Alpines Bauen (KAB), Pfeifer Architekten, TIS Innovation Park and Barth Innenausbau. The project is also being backed by the Italian province of South Tyrol.