The other day I read about a new invention, which is a GPS enabled walker for elderly patients. Apparently this is a student research product and being tested in Nursing Centres. It uses Wi-Fi communication and helps guide people around a complex such as a hospital or retirement centre. My first reaction was that this was a joke, but the more I think about this navigation for zimmer frames, the more it makes me think about solutions we will see soon.
Firstly, people do get lost in hospitals and large complexes, and the people most likely to lose their way will be elderly patients, perhaps with dementia or simply struggling with stress, pain or under influence of medication that makes them a little dopey and disoriented. If they are in a wheelchair or using some other aid, a mapping or navigation device could well be useful. Hospitals will in future have WiFi networks for their and this could be a device that is supported by it.
I often hear stories about elderly people with dementia getting lost when they go for walks and understand this is quite common. If they remember that they do live in a village or rest home and have a navigation device, it could guide them safely back home.
The other side is far more likely in the near future and that is tracking of people. I had a discussion today with someone from a New Zealand hospital about tracking of staff who visit mental health patients in their homes and the value of being able to locate them if they haven’t checked in within a pre-aranged time. Small pocket GPS tracking devices with GPRS connectivity already exist commercially and some of them also have ‘panic buttons’ that send an urgent alert together with the current GPS co-ordinates. These are typically still quite expensive, i.e. over $500 but with volume the prices will come down.
St Johns and other organisations have solutions such as LifeLink which is a great solution for in and around the home, but what happens when people go further from home. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a solution that would allow you to locate your elderly or ill relative if they don’t return from shopping or a quiet walk. What if they just want to walk a few houses down the road to visit a friend? I would have gladly paid a rental for a service like that for my late grandmother who had a fall one evening and wasn’t found until the following day with a broken hip.
Although it’s not aimed at elderly people, you will soon find walking directions on portable navigation devices (PND’s). You will be able to download a map that tells you where to park your car and then how to find your way around shopping malls, hospitals and unversity campuses, through parks and arcades. Maps of this nature will be commerically available within the next 12 months. They will also be available on map web sites in the very near future.
Most countries will also very soon have sophisticated navigation software and maps available to run on mobile phones, which will be as impressive as the portable Navigation Devices that are so popular today. Many phones have GPS built in and Bluetooth GPS Receivers abound for much less than $50.
It’s not a big stretch to see software being added that allow your location to be sent to other people on demand (with your permission of course). This isn’t Sci-Fi I’m talking about, it’s 2008 technology.
While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.
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