A project exploring smart homes for seniors and how modern technology can support older adults has been recognised with an award.

The Intelligent Home Solutions for Independent Living project was honoured by the Internet of Things (IoT) Australia with the award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Action.

The project was a collaboration between Monash University’s Emerging Technologies Research Lab (ETLab), McLean Care and Deakin University, and funded by the Australian Government Department of Health.

Professor Sarah Pink, ETLab Director, said the award showcases the importance of considering older adults in technology design.

Sarah Pink

“Seniors are often forgotten about in smart technology design,” she said in a statement.

“Winning the IoT’s inaugural award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Action recognises that it is essential for us to engage with seniors to understand and enable their relationships for technologies in ways and places that work for them.

“This knowledge is crucial for the design of the right technologies for ethical human futures that we will really want to live in.”

“Seniors are often forgotten about in smart technology design” – Professor Sarah Pink

Recommendations from project

The project had Monash researchers from the ETLab evaluating the benefits, opportunities and challenges of installing smart home devices in the homes of seniors living in regional communities.

Provider McLean Care recruited 33 participants, aged between 73 and 93, from 22 households and provided them with a range of smart home devices.

The research allowed the team to identify recommendations for equipping seniors, such as offering smart home devices as optional extras for in-home services and providing opportunities for learning digital living skills.

Also identified to be important was providing affordable and reliable internet services and designing smart home devices that support older people’s independence, mobility and memory.

Yolande Strengers

Yolande Strengers, Monash University Project Lead and Associate Professor in the ETLab, said older people are often underrepresented in smart home user studies.

“Older people are a marginalised demographic when it comes to the design of smart home devices,” she said in a statement.

“Despite the many benefits smart home devices can offer the elderly population, many older Australians are increasingly concerned about being left behind in the digital age, highlighting the need for proactive policy and research initiatives to help bridge this gap.”

Smart home devices used

To select the devices for the project, the team looked at the functionality, capability and connectivity of various off-the-shelf smart home technologies that are designed to match the needs of Commonwealth Home Support Programme participants.

The devices selected were all ‘plug and play’ devices that could be easily removed if required and did not require hard wiring or permanent modifications to homes.

There were 13 different devices used, including Google Home, iRobot Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner, Phillips Hue smart lights, Kogan Smart Kettles, Apple tablets and Fibaro water flood sensors.

After the trial, participants were asked to complete a survey to examine how easy each device was to use, its look and feel, how well it worked and the perceived overall benefit and rating.

“Despite the many benefits smart home devices can offer the elderly population, many older Australians are increasingly concerned about being left behind in the digital age.” – Yolande Strengers, Monash University Project Lead

Most participants were satisfied with the devices, giving them a rating of four out of five, however, two of the households requested that the trial device be removed before the completion of the trial because they found the technology too overwhelming.

The highest scores in the Overall Rating category went to the Kogan Smart Kettle, which was also the most popular item, and the Aeotec Smart Switch.

Documenting life during pandemic

The project will be featured in the Smart Homes for Seniors documentary, which followed older adults during the pandemic last year, looking at how they engaged with smart devices.

The film, directed by Professor Pink, will be screened during the Faculty of Information Technology’s Monash Tech Talks series on November 25.

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1 Comment

  1. Sp pleased that this long overdue work has been done. As an 80year old who has used all smart home devices available from their inception (no the roomba doesnt work down stairs…). Surpirsed they did not include the very cheap water flow monitor which gives an alarm if flow rates go above a basic level (a simple radio connection to and inside monitor)- also that the readily available dual mode fire detectors that communicate between each other and our (35year old) alarm system giveng full home coverage, audible and cellphone alarms(just need trivial reprogramming); the RING doorbell (while I am uneasy about the way in which it can be used) has worked brillianty and economically with its repeaters around the house and with real time video on iphones is another major safety issue…Its a pity the team did not ask elderly like ourselves what they were already using-and why these items and no others. A different dimension is for those homes with a battery, the UPS aspect isolates elderly (and of course any other) homes from power cuts losing lighting internet and safety equipment—but this important safety and security aspect seems to have been outside the scope of this project

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