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Adapting technology to Elderly People
Note: Although this article deals with a
European Union development for the Elderly,
it reflects the role technology can play in
caregiving and Aging in Place.
February 3, 2011--With the
numbers of people aged 65 and over growing,
the costs to the state to care for them are
set to continue rising across the European
Union. Two companies have combined their
differing expertise to create a monitoring
system with wireless touch screen devices
that enables senior citizens to receive help
and guidance at home and call for emergency
assistance if required.
Massive Art Multimedia in
Austria and CoSi Elektronik in Germany have
a history of collaboration on successful
A brainstorming session
between their developers produced the idea
of bringing together many aspects of the
modern computing world and applying them
specifically to the one group in society
that is least likely to already feel those
benefits - senior citizens.
As with so many projects of
this nature, the funding for development was
out of reach of two SMEs. By facilitating
the funding process EUREKA permitted the
development of the project now known as
Published on 2011-02-02It is
widely acknowledged that by assisting senior
citizens to look after their health at home,
their independence can be maintained for
longer, providing a higher quality of life
for the retiree and lower care costs for the
state and family.
Therefore, myVitali enables
healthcare professionals to monitor and
communicate with larger numbers of people
and to offer a greater level of assistance
to each one.
Massive Art Multimedia’s Tom
Ulmer explains, “The introduction of
computing power into the lives of the
elderly can offer reminders to take
medicines, dietary advice, immediate access
to medical professionals and much more. It
also reduces the need for visits to a local
doctor. Users can take important
measurements such as their blood pressure,
weight and body fat and have that
information directly uploaded to the system.
Any healthcare professional they deal with
can therefore have immediate access to their
recent health records.”
How ‘easy’ is easy to use?
Since the system is designed
for the elderly, there was very little
knowledge or skill with computers that could
be taken for granted.
This proved to be a problem
that had to be overcome during development.
Tools had to be developed to ensure that the
system could be set up by anyone whether
they are able to use a computer or not.
Considering that the system
uses wireless technology, webcams and touch
pads, there was a great deal to be done.
The intelligent combination
of several innovative technologies into one
project has enabled us to bring the useful
benefits of computing into the lives of
Tom Ulmer - Massive Art
Once in use, the system had
to take into account such things as possible
sight and hearing problems. As CoSi
Elektronik’s Dieter Martin points out,
“Making the user interface friendly enough
for elderly people was the real challenge”.
By focusing on wireless
devices, users can be connected anywhere in
their home but this creates a requirement
for multiple connecting devices, each one
adapted for use by seniors.
There were other problems to
be overcome during development. The current
generation of emergency devices use existing
analogue telephone lines.
If the user presses a button,
a message is sent to a central monitoring
location. By using the internet, many more
functions can be added to help users, but
what happens if a server is down when an
emergency button is pressed?
Any system had to be
completely stable and available one hundred
percent of the time.
This stability is created by
using a fall back system of servers using
cloud computing technology. The servers
running the system are in Germany, Austria,
Switzerland, Serbia and Brazil.
Such a range of locations
prevents any downtime and enables any
problems to be fixed without a loss of
service. In fact, different types of
messages are sent through the system every
minute and the main connection between a
user’s home and central monitoring is tested
every thirty seconds
Whilst the project was
originally developed with the elderly in
mind, it can have applications for many
The monitoring and measuring
aspects can be used to keep a watch on
indoor conditions and then make suggestions
By monitoring the air
quality, light quality, temperature and
humidity, the system can help tailor the
indoor environment to an individual’s
We are a small company and
our development team for this project was
just 10 people. But the partnership with
Massive Art Multimedia has enabled us to
create a product that can compete with the
giants in this industry.
Dieter Martin - CoSi
All this information
gathering provides data protection and
security issues. Mr Ulmer stresses the
importance of protecting users as “vital”,
adding that “all personal information
belongs to the user, and while it may need
to be seen by others, medical staff for
example, the user is able to limit access at
To safeguard data from the
wider world, the system uses the same
technology that banks are now using for
mobile devices. By storing personal data and
generic data on different secure servers, an
extra layer of security is added.
Martin continues, “In 2007
and 2008 we could not see any device of this
kind on the market, and so we set out to
develop one. It took us over two years to
complete, but in 2010 we still could not
find something similar. As you can imagine,
we have high hopes for this system in 2011