After his wife died, Han (79) had a problem: because he now lived alone, he was worried about what would happen if he falls down the stairs. How long would it take for someone to find him? He was retired so nobody would miss him. His son Thijs (44) makes regularly telephone calls, but it could very well be that he doesn’t call ten days or so.
Han and Thijs are not the only one coping with this problem. They both were looking for a solution. Thijs soon came up with a personal alarm, but Han did not want to carry a stupid button around his neck, he did not feel that old, nor did he want sensors on the doors, the fridge and even the toilet. He felt that is an excessive infringement of his privacy.
Thijs happened to work as a Product Manager at Microsoft where he was in charge of the Xbox game console with accompanying Kinect sensor. And although the Kinect sensor was actually meant to be able to play games without a controller (by jumping, waving your hands etc.), they came up with the idea of using that same technology for a completely different purpose, namely their common problem. The Kinect sensor was now used to register the activity in the room, and in the absence of movement Thijs received a warning signal. The first prototype was born!
A disadvantage was that a sensor had to be placed in every single room.
The idea of using the devices already available in the house was born such as the kettle, the television etc. As a result, the system had absolutely no impact on the daily routine of Han. Han's normal energy consumption was mapped with a self-developed self-learning algorithm. When a deviation was detected Thijs received a notification.
It soon became apparent that many people in Han's and Thijs' environment were very interested in their solution: it was simple, cheap, the privacy of the elderly was maintained while the child or caregiver could still keep an eye on the senior. Pilots were set up in collaboration with various home care organizations, energy company Eneco and insurance company Zilveren Kruis Achmea, which allowed the system to be further refined into it's present state.
The solution is now available for anyone who wants to use it, and Han and Thijs are one step closer realizing their dream: that people anywhere in the world can keep an eye on each other in an accessible way without losing their freedom.