BERLIN (Reuters) – IBM and the British start-up Cera Care plan a six-month pilot to test whether lidar laser sensors are used to help the self-driving cars “see”, can enable the elderly to remain in their homes longer – without prejudice to privacy.
The logo for IBM is shown on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, USA, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Lidar systems that operates with the help of laser light pulses to render fine-grained images of the environment, usually used to make high-resolution maps, to catch speeding motorists and, more recently, to help automated cars navigate through the streets.
If the pilot is successful, it could possibly open a new market for lidar, just as it falls out of favor with some manufacturers, including Nissan and Tesla, who have called it expensive and unnecessary.
Jack Narcotta, a senior smart home analyst at Strategy Analytics, said lidar lasers were one of the more advanced solutions for elderly people monitoring, but were still in a very early stage.
Although lidar does not recognize faces, some consumers are concerned about the amount of tracking and the location of the collected data and the ability to see repeatable patterns, ” he said.
In the pilot, IBM Research UK, and Cera Make plan to install lidar sensors in approximately 10-15 volunteer households in great Britain in June, and see whether they can build a detailed picture of a client of the daily routine and the home environment using the IBM-machine learning software.
Their goal is to alert professionals to any deterioration in the physical and mental health, such as changes in gait, or emergencies such as a fall.
Am Maruthappu, co-founder and CEO of Cera Care hopes that the technology will help the system of the care is more personalized even as the demand for care is greater the number of careworkers in the front row.
“Technology can help us solve that gap between demand and supply, because it means that we can pinpoint when a careworker must be in a person’s home,” Maruthappu told Reuters.
The world’s population is aging rapidly, with more than 60 expected to more than double to 2 billion by 2050 of 900 million euros in 2015, according to the World Health Organization.
Lidar sensors have become an important element in the self-driving systems of General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co. and Alphabet, Inc Waymo. But their use in the home remains an emerging field.
Narcotta see the competition from the likes of ‘Hive Link, a connected care service, a division of Centrica’s British Gas, launched in December, that uses sensors and smart plugs to learn a person’s routine and sends notifications to subscribers when it detects any unusual changes.
Nicola Palmarini, IBM top researcher on aging and longevity, says lidar is not recognized by personal characteristics, such as faces, age, and gender – gives precise data without people feel to be viewed.
He thinks she’s a laser sensor per room, potentially making it more scalable and reduce the overall cost of healthcare if people can stay at home for longer.
Yet the technology comes with a high price tag, with 3D sensors currently cost between $800 and $1,000 each, according to Palmarini. He expects that the costs will fall in time.
Aejaz Zahid, director at assistroniX and an expert on new technologies to help people age well, said one of the major benefits of lidar would fall detection – a major pain point for the healthcare that the researchers are struggling to crack the communication.
Other companies to look at lidar’s potential in the smart home include scanning technology maker Microvision that is started with a laser sensor with a maximum range of 10 meters with machine-learning capabilities.
Researchers are also investigating the possibility of the use of lidar to provide smart home devices “vision”.
Although there is some concern that prolonged stare in Class I lasers, that less power – may pose a risk to the vision, IBM and the Cera Care said that they are planning to test lidar technology that has been certified as safe for domestic use.
Reporting by Caroline Copley, editing by Louise Heavens and David Evans