Erkki Alatalo enjoying his morning coffee

5G Test Network Enables Flexible Service Solutions for Older People’s Independent Living

Sensors installed in the spacious sunlit home of Erkki Alatalo (91) transmit data on his morning activities. Calmness prevails, as the senior resident of Caritas-home is enjoying his breakfast while surmounting a Sudoku challenge. Careful analysis of the sensor data utilises artificial intelligence producing a model of his daily routines, which is subsequently used for organising individualised nursing and support services by Caritas. As a joint effort, Caritas, three technology companies - Haltian, Indalgo and Kaltiot - and 5G Test Network experts at the University of Oulu and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland contribute to security and comfort for longer living at home in a mature age.

“Here is one of the almost invisible sensors measuring movement from the corner of my living room wall”, Alatalo introduces. He did not hesitate when volunteering to open his home for the research project. “Participating in the development of improved technological solutions for persons in similar conditions as myself now and in the future is a privilege” he says.

Erkki Alatalo introduces a small-sized sensor to nurse Lea Alakopsa

Erkki Alatalo introduces a small-sized sensor to nurse Lea Alakopsa

Three 5G Test Network research team members and a nurse have arrived for a visit to discuss the results of the project and next steps with Erkki Alatalo. For the first time, he sees the graphical representations of his morning routines introduced. The accuracy is astounding, he considers. For instance, one can easily see the difference with early awakenings followed by morning radio listening and more efficient mornings with fast breakfast in order to make it in time for an organised gathering outside home.

Erkki Alatalo discusses graphical representations of his morning routines with data specialist Johanna Laurinen from Indalgo

Timely and correct services

Petteri Viramo, MD and CEO of Caritas Palvelut Oy confirms: “We believe that by securing timely and correct services we can improve the quality of living at home as well as support independent activities and decision-making for elderly and disabled persons. Naturally, we are also confident that living at home will be possible much longer, which brings considerable cost-savings for our residents.”

As an outcome of the research project “Home care services can be offered taking into account both timing and quantity of the services. Thus, correct services will be available at those moments when a person needs them most and when they bring the best benefit for the individual” Viramo concludes. “Without a doubt, many new types and forms of services will be created in the near future to respond accurately to individual needs. They will heavily rely on technological innovations.”

Petteri Viramo discusses the development of individualised services with Arto Matilainen, system manager from the University of Oulu

Petteri Viramo discusses the development of individualised services with Arto Matilainen, system manager from the University of Oulu

For a resident, the benefit of timely individualised services is evident. With the collected and analysed data, services and visits of caregivers can be organised in such a manner that unnecessary interruptions or delays are avoided and caregivers stop by when it is most convenient taking into account the resident’s activities. Instead of being limited by a rigid schedule, a resident can focus on the essential – an active elderly life for as long as possible.

Societal need of novel innovations

The ongoing project in an important effort directly in line with national efforts to answer for increasing service needs. In its ageing policy, the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health stresses that older people’s functional capacity, independent living and active participation in society must be strongly supported.

Solid technological solutions and service innovations are desperately needed as by year 2060 the share of older persons (aged >64) is expected to reach 29% of the total population in Finland. Petteri Viramo states: “According to our knowledge, our project is the first one in Finland to integrate several operational and data collection systems to support caregiving services. Caritas wishes to actively participate in the development of novel operational models.”

Data collection and models for individualised caregiving

In the research project carried out by the 5G Test Network team, measuring focuses essentially on movement, temperature and electricity consumption, which give an accurate picture of the progression of each resident’s morning routines. The time frame for data collection has been set from 6 am until 11 am so that sleepier residents can also be catered to. Data collected by sensors from individual apartments is transmitted and stored every minute with Nokia’s wireless solutions. Secure storage at the University of Oulu benefits of careful data security features making the solution trustworthy also from the data management point of view.

The collected data is analysed by using different models based on artificial intelligence (AI) resulting in individual models of each resident’s morning activity and routines. Petteri Viramo describes “With the analysis produced for each individual, we will create an optimal plan for home care including all related services and functional timetables. Importantly, the AI based system allows us to detect and keep track on small changes in the resident’s condition leading to increased security and faster reaction to discrepancies”.

Lea Alakopsa, Johanna Laurinen and Petteri Viramo have a look at the developed features

Efficient implementation and system integration

The research vision for the project has been jointly elaborated with the 5GTN team members to ensure optimal implementation. Caritas has defined largely what should be measured in the specific sector of care and wellbeing so that the collected data is of most value for its caregivers and brings true value for their everyday work. Johanna Laurinen from Indalgo, a 5GTN partner company focusing on data analytics, describes: “For a nurse we want to show especially when it is a good time to visit a resident.”

The major research challenges culminate in efficient integration. Test network has offered an open possibility of technology companies to bring their sensors and service companies to analyze the provided data. Currently sensors have been developed and provided by three research partners - Haltian, Kaltiot and VTT. Each have separate sensor systems consisting of sensors, backbones and platforms. To create a reliable and robust end-to-end system, the 5GTN team has utilised each partners’ best resources and knowledge and open source software in the spirit of 5GTN open innovation. “Demanding adaptation was needed as there is no standardised data format for individual systems”, confirms Arto Matilainen, integration expert and system manager at the Centre for Wireless Communications, University of Oulu.

The team is very pleased with the results so far. Petteri Viramo concludes “Co-operation with experts on the field of the new technology has been a great journey for us to learn more about possibilities but also limitations. I really believe that also our partners have come to know everyday life of elderly people“.

5GTN constantly seeks new research partners to expand its activities in new domains of sensoring e.g. for smart homes and wearables.    

More information: Project Manager Olli Liinamaa, olli.liinamaa (at) oulu.fi

 

Text: Hanna Saarela

Pictures: Juha Sarkkinen

 

Last updated: 7.9.2018