Big Brother is weighing you

Maybe you’ve heard about the “internet everywhere� concept, or Project Oxygen at MIT. The idea is to put interactivity and connectivity all over the place -- in refrigerators, cars, walls. The goal is convenience and efficiency -- your house will automatically turn down the heat and lights for rooms lacking movement or noise, for instance. Another example: when your car pulls into the grocery store, you get an alert from the fridge telling you the milk expires soon.

Some critics point out the expense-to-convenience ratio is a little skewed, here – a lot of these “problems� could be solved with post-it notes or simple conscientiousness. But Gizmodo, which has been on a health-kick lately cites this brief article from the Houston Chronicle on nursing-home applications for pervasive technology.

The simplest devices automatically turn on a light when a person gets out of bed and track motion to see how well someone slept…
Other prototype devices monitor weight and blood pressure continuously, help Alzheimer's patients recall names, faces and recent conversations, and listen to footsteps to see how steady people are on their feet and broadcast an alarm if they fall.
The elder-tech industry says its devices are cheaper than hospital or institutional care.
"We don't have enough caregivers to work with all the seniors. When their population triples, it's going to be more difficult," said Dr. Laverne Joseph, the president of the Retirement Housing Foundation, a California-based nonprofit group.
At Oatfield Estates, described as "an alternative to assisted living," computers record the location of every resident, and sensors under residents' bedposts -- with permission -- tell caregivers whether residents are losing or gaining weight or having trouble sleeping. (emphasis added )

It’s not surprising that this technology would find use first in populations where post-it notes and conscientiousness is no longer possible, or too expensive to delegate to others. The next target might be children, and Wherify has already made some inroads into kid-tracking with GPS.

Eventually, things will become cheap enough for sick adults – people with severe asthma, advanced heart disease, or sleep apnea. Eventually, doctors might be able to monitor a patient's alcohol or tobacco abstinence with these technologies.

Cut-to-Cure just posted about the need for gyms to carry defibrillators, but pervasive technology take emergency health care farther. The day is coming when, if someone’s vitals start to fluctuate -- at home, or the gym, or even in a mall -- the call and coordinates will automatically goes out to EMS. Maybe the nearest hundred cell phones would get a text message with the news, and a primer on basic life support techniques.

More devices are profiled at the Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST). It's a little scary, but pretty cool, too.