Surrey NHS trust launches Internet of Things trial for improving dementia care

Written by Rebecca Hill on 20 September 2016 in News
News

Surrey and Borders Partners NHS Trust has launched a £5m trial of Internet of Things technologies to improve healthcare for people with dementia.

Internet of Things: By 2020, around 38.5 million devices will be connected to the internet - Photo credit: Pixabay

The trial, which will involve 700 people with mild to moderate dementia and 700 carers, will allow clinicians to remotely monitor the health and wellbeing of people with dementia.

The aim is to allow earlier intervention, reduce unnecessary hospital admissions, relieve pressure on carers, and allow people with dementia to remain in their own homes independently for longer.

Half of the participants will be randomly selected to have their homes kitted out with sensors, trackers and apps that will connect to the Internet of Things and collect information that will be collated and analysed. The other half is a control group, who will continue their care as usual.


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The trial will use objects like fridges, kettles and beds to detect and assess behaviour patterns, such as if someone might be at risk of dehydration or are unusually active at night.

“The technology is designed to alert us to any changes in behaviour or any changes in wellbeing that could signal someone is becoming unwell or that they are in trouble,” Ramin Nilforooshan, leading dementia specialist at the trust, said. “We could detect the early signs or symptoms of those infections and successfully treat them at home.”

If the system detects a potential problem it alerts clinicians, who will make a decision on whether action is needed, which might be a visit from the clinician or a call to the person’s carer.

The trust added that it would not replace face-to-face interaction with health or social care staff. In addition, the Alzheimer’s Society is recruiting 150 volunteers to support the participants.

Although the trial, which is being funded by NHS England and the UK government’s innovation agency Innovate UK, is the first of its kind in the UK, many councils are already considering how to make use of Internet of Things technologies.

In a recent interview, Camden council's interim chief information officer Omid Shiraji told PublicTechnology that the council was looking at trialling smart parking sensors, IoT bins, streetlight dimming and a project with waste management which would enable residents to know when their waste is going to be collected. 

Meanwhile, the Digital Catapult – an Innovate UK centre that aims to connect academics and businesses to drive innovation – has today launched an Internet of Things network across London.

The Things Connected network, which will start with 50 low-power wide-area network base stations across the capital, is aimed at encouraging start-ups and small businesses to make better use of the Internet of Things.

It will be free to use and provide a testbed for evolving Internet of Things technologies – for instance by allowing companies to develop apps or services to improve energy management or transport.

Examples suggested by the catapult include better connected data from traffic sensors, including pedestrian footfall counts, crash-impact incidents from bike-frame sensors and traffic congestion feeds, to create a ‘safer journey’ planner for central London.

The catapult, which has local hubs in the Sunderland, Brighton and Bradford, said that the aim was to replicate the innovation support programme elsewhere.

“Things Connected is starting in London but we want it to cover the UK,” said Jeremy Silver, the chief executive of the Digital Catapult, said. “We aim to roll Things Connected out to help remove the barriers to IoT technology for businesses, and create new revenue opportunities for entrepreneurs and for smaller and larger companies.”

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