min read
June 2, 2015

How the Elderly Ended Up at the Forefront of the Internet of Things

Internet Of Things

Despite their reputation for being unfriendly to even the most user-friendly technology, it seems like old people may have be at the forefront of the Internet of Things. Medical alert systems like Life Alert may represent the earliest iterations of today’s most advanced technology.As I’ve covered at length on this blog, there’s no hotter market in tech right now than the Internet of Things. But what’s both ironic and fascinating about this recent craze is that our most senior citizens seem to have been on top of it for years.

How Medical Alert Systems Paved the Way

The medical alert systems that many seniors have been toting around their necks for decades long predate Amazon Buttons and Smart Parking Systems as the most useful and necessary connected devices of the past 50 years.Invented in 1975, the first medical alert systems were machines that attached to rotary phones called “emergency dialers.” The more recent systems, like First Alert, are the ones we’d be more familiar with and are worn around the neck.These systems operate quite simply — if you press a single button, a message is sent to some kind of emergency hotline, at the other end of which someone responds immediately and appropriately.Today’s alert systems are true technological wonders — they’re smaller, lighter, faster, and more effective. They connect with professionally trained operators who know what to do in emergency situations and can actually scroll through a list of your emergency contacts to place a call informing them of your situation.Because they’re driven by human-to-human interaction, these systems have proven far more effective than those defined by pre-recorded answering devices, not to mention more efficient. There are now entire networks of professionals trained for emergency situations, and they’ll be the ones on the other end of the line.What’s more, advanced mobile technology can now allow operators to pinpoint an exact location using GPS. As long as a senior or the building they live in has wireless or 3G access, the GPS can inform emergency operators of their exact location at the time of an accident.The unimpeded growth of the Internet of Things makes these life-saving services affordable and accessible to virtually anyone today, and the end result is the most popular and universally effective connected device on the market.

The Future of the Internet of Medical Things

So what’s the future of Internet of Things devices in the healthcare industry? I’d still like to think that these medical alert systems are ahead of the curve, but I also believe that there are a million ways that they could be made even more effective.Think I’m being ambitious? We’re already seeing this in action: every few years, a new feature comes out. Just recently, sensors were been added to some such devices that implement “advanced fall detection,” which can tell if and when someone has slipped and fallen — if a fall is detected, a signal is immediately sent out.How can this be made even more efficient? Are there ways of predicting an accident or moment of stress? How can we integrate the data that these systems detect even more seamlessly into the devices we use daily?In addition to added features like sensors, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a more fluid interpretation of the system itself — especially in this case.Perhaps systems and sensors can be built into shirts and jackets rather than worn around the wrist or the neck, or placed at various points around a home for convenience. These sensors could send data to smartphones or tablets in a fully-integrated, Internet of Things-based system.Health, so far, has been the biggest highlight of the Apple Watch — fitness apps that measure your heartbeat seem to be the most impressive development so far in wearable technology, not to mention the one that seems the most useful and attractive to consumers.These watches and the apps they support are some of the best and newest examples of seamless Internet of Things integration that will only continue to grow in efficiency and capability.There’s no doubt in my mind that medical alert systems are about to see another jump in innovation, especially given the recent boom in Health apps, wearables, and Internet of Things technology. After all, there’s no use of technology more helpful — or more valuable — than potentially saving lives.

Brian Manning