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An intelligent house for Alzheimer’s patients

They remember that when they were young they liked going to the country, but not who is the person that stands by their side. Alzheimer’s patients have a new ally in order to improve their life conditions: “humanized” technology that takes care of them when people cannot.

Some technological solutions, patented in 29 European countries, have been carried out after one year of living together researchers from the Spanish company Tulecom with patients, relatives and health personnel in order to identify their real needs.

TulecomTulecom has created, with the support of the Ministries of Industry and Science and the collaboration of universities and associations of patients with this disease, “intelligent spaces” that offer innovative applications which improve these patients’ quality of life: monitoring, accurate indoor location, access control, cognitive stimulation, falls prevention and assistance.

‘We don’t intend to substitute carers, but being there when they cannot, with friendly technology that makes easy diary life of persons with Alzheimer and that guarantees their safety’, Alberto Saavedra, president of the company which develops the “ambient intelligence” creating environments able to perceive people, identify them and answer according to each one requirements, remarks.

All of this is included in “Aliado” project, with different aspects. Its services, some of them already commercialized and others in their last phases of research, provide a wide care to those patients.

One of the main actions consists of locating the user through a chip, which is implanted in clothes and shoes (since the Alzheimer’s sufferer who undresses do not used to take off the shoes) or as an ergonomic bracelet.

This technology not only locates the exact situation like others in the market, but it has an accuracy of 40 centimetres and discriminates in three dimensions what is doing in every moment. ‘We know 24 hours a day if they are sitting at a table, lying, falling or even in front of a door. It allows acting immediately when emergencies occur because it detects any weird behaviour’, the president says.

The project involves the transformation of the housing, geriatric or hospital into “intelligent environments”, with domotic integration (technology at home).

One of the services that it offers is the control of the access to allowed zones. ‘If patients with this disease try to open the front door, they will be blocked and an alert will be sent to the carer’. The same thing happens with domestic appliances that can hurt them, such as the glass-ceramic cooktop or the heating. It also happens the contrary: ‘If they have the habit of getting up every night to go to the toilet but, because they are disorientated, they do not push the door, it will be opened automatically; the same with the illumination: if they do not switch on the light, the system will switch it on for them’.

‘Everything is managed by a system which stores the information and with “non-invasive” technology that does not require learning’, Saavedra details.

Another aspect of Aliado’s project consists of cognitive stimulation, developed to give the patient some autonomy in the absence of their carer.

In a room of the house or the hospital a tactile and sound screen which “talks” to the patients in a personalised way, recognizes them by the chip they carry and makes them to perform some activity. This device “asks” basic questions in order to train their memory and besides this it includes an innovative program that, after listening to their origins, tastes and past episodes, tries to reproduce them with the best possible fidelity. ‘If the user tells the town where he comes from and that he liked travelling to Rome, the computer will show images of his native town and the Italian city in order to revive his memories and promote the reasoning’.

TulecomTulecom helps to prevent falls by means of an accelerometer since it detects if a patient staggers, something that, according to Saavedra’s explanations, happens “a while before” they fall. ‘We are capable of warning the doctor before the fall happens’, he points out.

This technology also monitors patients. If the cardiac rhythm or another indicator varies, it is transmitted to a central system that notifies it to the right person.

Innovations continue: the Spanish company works with the University of Castilla-La Mancha in order to create a TDT channel to send all patient alerts. ‘A window in the screen will remember they should take their pills’, the president of Tulecom clarifies.

To those functions the creation of a tasks manager for nurses or carers, which will maximize their time that is translated into direct attention to the patient, is added. Besides this a roaming application for the drivers who carry them to the day centre is also developed in order to never lose the patient.

At the beginning of this year, Tulecom started the commercialization of some of these services: location, monitoring and control of access, which had been already launched at the end of 2008 in some places such as the nursing home of the Association of Alzheimer’s Patients and Relatives (AFA) in Salamanca, Spain. During the project they also had the collaboration of the University of Salamanca, the University of Madrid and the Technological Centre for Telecommunications Development of Castilla y León (CEDETEL).

The rest of applications will be in the market by 2010 and the Clinical Hospital of Salamanca, the Holy Trinity Hospital Foundation of Salamanca, LARES nursing homes of Castilla y León, the Hospital of Fuenlabrada and the Alzheimer Boni Mediero nursing home of Salamanca will be the first final users of the project.

The company, founded in 2006 and composed of 27 workers, operates in Castilla y León, where its headquarters is located, but also in Madrid, Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura and Andalucía. They aspire to “grow” with their project in Europe. ‘It is a very ambitious project that will give great welfare to dependent people’.

Via:

http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2009/04/20/castillayleon/1240215692.html

COGKNOW is funded by the European Comission within the IST-2005/2006-2.5.11 (Unit H3 - eInclusion) Contract #034025

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