This 'smart home' even monitors your health

The phrase "smart home" usually summons an image of lighting that goes on and off at a voice command, a stereo that automatically plays the music its owners like best, and vacuum cleaners that automatically keep the house shiny and bright.

At Carleton University in Ottawa, however, a multidisciplinary team is working on an entirely different approach to smart houses.

The object of this project, funded by the Ontario Research Network for electronic Commerce (e-Health), is to allow the elderly to remain in their homes rather than having to go to nursing homes, while intercepting incipient health issues before they become emergencies that require hospital stays.

Rafik Goubran, Ph.D. and acting dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Design, and Dr. Frank Knoefel, chief of staff and VP of medical affairs at SCO Health Service, which includes Elisabeth Bruyere Hospital and Research Institute, are leading the effort.

The team of engineering Ph.D. students, doctors and nurses at Elisabeth Bruyere Hospital in Ottawa, and elderly patients, is designing a sensor-rich environment to monitor elderly individuals in their homes unobtrusively.

"We want to monitor small deviations in behavior: are they having trouble sleeping, are they developing a joint problem that makes it hard to get up in the morning, is their weight decreasing," Dean Goubran says. "At the same time, we don't want to make them wear wires and sensors all day. We don't want them really conscious of the sensors, although of course they know the sensors are there and have given permission."