With the increase of the elderly population and the degree of aging, the medical service cost of the elderly also increases. Chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and asthma are also on the rise (Van Hoof et al., 2017). For most elderly, services provided by professional caregivers or senior care centers are still very expensive. Smart homes can not only keep the elderly healthy to a certain extent, but also help them keep in touch with society.
Voice devices, cameras and sensors embedded in wearable devices and home appliances can be used to monitor the vulnerable bodies of the elderly. The combination of Internet technology and these devices has laid the foundation for perfect health detection, telecommunication and medical services, and auxiliary living services.
Smart home uses sensors to connect people with household devices. RFID tags (Hussain et al., 2009) and passive infrared sensors (Kim et al., 2009) are used to collect data such as temperature, light intensity and human body position, and wearable sensors are used to measure blood pressure and heart rate. Smart home devices can alert the elderly or caregivers when unhealthy conditions occur (Czaja., 2016).
Wearable and furniture or smartphones may have lower costs than voice devices and cameras that consume a lot of computing power. For example, Pierleoni et al. proposed a wearable device to detect falls in the elderly through the waist (Pierleoni et al., 2015). Wang et al. designed a fall detection system based on accelerometer, cardiometer and smart sensors (Wang et al., 2014).
Howcroft et al found that analysis of gait data of the elderly may detect the risk of falls in the elderly (Howcroft et al., 2016). Abbate et al. Used the accelerometer of smart phone to measure the user’s movement to detect the fall and issue a warning (Abbate et al., 2012). Nam et al. designed a smart bed based on pressure sensor and triaxial accelerometer that can detect different sleep stages and early symptoms of sleep disorders (Nam et al., 2016). However, the combined design of sensors and video equipment may be more accurate (Zhang et al., 2013).
In addition, the smart home can also remind the elderly to take medicine (Zanjal et al., 2016). The smart home can also guide the elderly with dementia to take medicine by voicing (Moshnyaga et al., 2016).
It is worth noting that the difference between the bodies of the elderly and the young may lead to the need for designers to adopt different algorithms. The elderly may also need more sensors and lower detection threshold.
Smart home devices transmit the body data of the elderly to hospitals or related institutions over the Internet, and the elderly can get remote medical services after ordering related services, such as, video counseling between doctors and the elderly, remote health testing, emergency care services. Choudhury et al. proposed a monitoring system based on smart phones that can send the user’s location information to the emergency center or paramedics in an emergency (Choudhury et al., 2015). In addition to providing medical services to the elderly, smart homes can also help the elderly to exercise (Tsai et al., 2013; Van Diest et al., 2015; Kiselev et al., 2015).
Older people who suffer from blindness and hidden dangers caused by independent life can also get help through smart homes. Remote communication and services can enable the elderly to get a closer connection with their children or friends. Children can easily know the living conditions of the elderly at home without having to visit their parents often. Rich sensors can also provide children with physical data of their parents to make reasonable and timely responses.
Children and parents can also share the latest photos, news, and social networking activities with each other. The benefits of communication between the elderly and social robots should be noted (Graaf et al., 2015). Smart homes, on the other hand, can remind the elderly to complete to-do lists or prevent potential pitfalls by monitoring home devices. Such as gas leaks, damaged faucets, and illegal intrusion.
However, we should note that the smart home is not a pure functions set. Therefore, when designing the user interface of an overall smart home project, reasonable functional design and navigation structure must be considered. Moreover, when designing for the elderly, designers need to fully consider the factors of the elderly (Czaja et al., 2009).
While collecting a large amount of data, the smart home also brings about problems related to privacy and security. And more and more third-party platform applications share user data in order to improve the reliability and service level of applications, the risk of privacy leakage is increasing. In addition to implementing laws addressing privacy issues in smart homes, designers should also consider user privacy data protection measures when designing smart homes. Otherwise, while smart homes provide services to vulnerable groups such as the elderly, there is also the possibility of inducing the elderly to make unreasonable choices, which will lead to unexpected results.