Regaining autonomy with smart homes

While "loss of autonomy" used to mean "institutional living", this is no longer necessarily the case!

Thanks to the researchers at Université de Sherbrooke's DOMUS Laboratory, home automation is being used to help victims of severe traumatic brain injury. The first residence that "talks" to its occupants was inaugurated in 2011 in Estrie, and other similar projects are sure to follow.

Thanks to the researchers at DOMUS Laboratory, home automation is being used to help victims of severe traumatic brain injury.

A light flashes when the coffee maker stays on too long; the stove turns off by itself after a certain amount of time; a reminder of the day's schedule is displayed on the TV screen… The smart residence of the Centre de réadaptation Estrie allows 10 people who have suffered a severe traumatic brain injury to enjoy independent lives under continuous computerized supervision. This smart home detects the actions of its occupants by means of sensors installed under the beds, chairs and carpets, on the doors and in the plumbing fixtures.

"The information generated by the sensors is analyzed by automatic learning algorithms in order to adapt to the individual's living habits", explains Hélène Pigot, a computer science researcher at DOMUS Laboratory and co-director of the project. "Using computer technology, the house will be able to respond quickly by sounding an alarm if there is a risk of fire or water damage, or by calling an emergency responder". In addition, to promote independence outside of the home, every occupant will have a cell phone with an integrated personal assistant that will keep track of the day's schedule, remind them when to take their medication, and so on. Inside the residence, the portable agenda will be able to interact and synchronize with a computer or television screen.

The researchers at DOMUS use this residence to test different assisted living technologies. Their goal is to develop simple, explicit interfaces adapted to the needs of users who have trouble managing their daily activities, but who want to lead independent lives. Scientists are working on developing a touch-screen cooking assistant that will help users in the kitchen. The concept of home automation will eventually be integrated into other residences and adapted to "talk" to people suffering from mental illness.