Our Research

Beyond "ADL"

"ADL" has a specialized and widely understood definition.  Our definition includes anything that can be deduced from the physical movements, and context of an individual.
We are creating a technology to keep track of our own physical activities of daily life - currently in and around our homes, and beyond.  

Our apparatus can spot situations of concern arising in daily life.  It can be used to provide, or summon timely assistance, saving frustration, resources, and perhaps lives.  

We define situation of concern very broadly, ranging from the relatively trivial, yet tiresome to the serious, or life-threatening.  We include situations like:
  • forgetting to do something important, for example, taking medications, or turning off the stove; 
  • being incapacitated - stuck in the bath, injured and in need of help, or locked in, or out or somewhere; 
  • being unaware that something in our surroundings is wrong - we are too cold, have become dehydrated, or are becoming comatose;
  • adopting unusual behavior: rocking, pacing, wandering;
  • veering: slow changing patterns in behavior that are difficult for humans to perceive that might provide early indication of a health issue - a stroke, depression, Alzheimer's disease.
Popular technologies already exist for monitoring exercise goals, or spotting falls, and alerting caregivers.  

Our goal is to spot richer, varied situations of concern.   We are not targeting subjects with ailments specifically... or the elderly, or their care-givers, or even exercise buffs.  Indeed most people will fit each of those profiles at some time in their life.  Our platform provides services that are uniquely useful from the first day, and which learn to become more helpful as we age, and as our special needs become apparent.  

Our vision is not driven by engineering options.  It is driven by our desire to extend a powerful assistive technology to the infirm, and elderly, who overwhelmingly want to age in place.   As we age, few of us would choose, or find it easy to move from the familiar surroundings of our home, into a care facility.   Similarly, few of us relish embracing new and unfamiliar assistive technologies.  Surprise!  Learning a whole new technology does not get easier with age either. 

For example, we all need help to find things we mislay sometimes.  We all value timely reminders to perform everyday tasks, like taking our medication.  But as we age, finding things, and remembering task becomes more tiresome, and we want to know that somebody will come to our aid if we fall down, or experience some other situation where we need help.   So one of our goals is to provide a service that we can learn to use, while it's easy for us to learn new things, and which can offer increasingly more tailored support as we evolve, but which doesn't require us to learn new habits, or adapt to a new unfamiliar gizmo.  We contend that re-purposing and adapting a familiar, trusted technology - one with at least predictable behavior, becomes increasingly attractive as we age, and our faculties dwindle.  Moreover, few of us will gleefully accept disruptive assistive technologies.  Neither will we welcome technologies that seem invasive, and leave us wondering if we, or perhaps somebody else,  will benefit at our expense.   We want to be able to try things out, and see if they work for us, and reject them if they don't.  In summary, we prefer to remain the senior controlling partner in our continuing journey.    

But what are the compelling services that everyone might sign up for?

Each moment of everyday life provides an opportunity for an automatic activity tracker to provide helpful, timely assistance.  
  • streamlining physical access to places, or electronic services - tailoring device behavior;
  • finding mislaid objects - a purse, cell phone, or key; 
  • short-cutting the path to information you need for the current context - a person's name you have just re-met;
  • noticing coincidences - something always occurs just before, or just after something of interest;
  • noticing patterns of behavior - how your feeling of well-being tracks your physical activity, or eating patterns.
So why not commandeer a smartphone as the platform for our project?  Patterns of life do not fit comfortably into the periods when we actually have our smartphone to hand. Situations of concern can arise anywhere, any second.  So a critical axis of our research is devising a tiny wearable technology that can be carried 24x7, and which can sense, and deliver, or summon help in situations of concern.  The second axis of our work focuses on the software that does the understanding, where we are tackling two more challenging technical goals:
  • the ability to describe a subject's physical context using the kind of concepts and language we use ourselves; 
  • and the ability to spot contextual patterns - recurring unbroken sequences of activities spanning months, years, or lifetimes.
The healthcare industry has long been interested in logging activities of daily living (ADLs).   They routinely use the ability or inability of a subject to perform activities of daily living as a measurement of their functional status, particularly in regard to people with disabilities and the elderly.    The ability to provide support with ADL assessment on a daily, and continuing basis is a useful milestone on our journey.

Subpages (1): ADL Tracker - TS05b