With the vast majority of older Australians wishing to age in their own homes comes a level of anxiety for their loved ones.
But Adelaide father and medical device engineer Shem Richards is hoping to change that, with a smart suit currently being adapted and trialled for the aged care market.
Richards is the creator of the Goldilocks Suit, a wearable baby monitor which records a baby’s temperature, sleeping patterns, breathing, feeding and development, sending vital information straight to parents’ smartphones.
“The Goldilocks Suit in its current form is essentially presented as a normal bit of clothing, you wouldn’t really notice anything different when you’re looking at it,” Richards explains.
“But on the inside little sensors are screen printed and the sensors are picking up biometrics of the wearer,” he adds.
“That kind of goes through a low energy bluetooth module, in a little pocket on the clothing,and then that gets transferred to your phone and goes through our machine learning algorithms which basically predict what state the user is in.”
Since the first batch of bodysuits hit the market in January this year, Richards has been approached by South Australian aged care provider ECH, forming a partnership to further develop the product for a new market.
ECH Chief Executive Dr David Panter says that 90 per cent of older people would prefer to live independently in their own home until death, yet only 10 per cent do.
He sees strong potential for the Goldilocks Suit, based on its proven success in the infant market to date.
“ECH is committed to supporting older people to remain living independently for as long as they wish to through the services and technologies we provide.
“For families who are worried about someone’s ability to live independently, technology such as Goldilocks will provide peace of mind by monitoring a person’s health in an unobtrusive way,” Panter says.
Richards says the Goldilocks Suit will be scaled up to fit bigger bodies, but the hardware will essentially be the same, although tracking different biometrics.
Fall detection will be one focus area, as well as body temperature.
“So you can track core temperature to make sure everything’s going OK, and then skin temperature to make sure that they haven’t left the heater on or they have turned the heater off,” he explains.
“And then we measure breathing patterns as well, which is kind of an early indication for things like sleep apnea and other issues like that.
“There will also be a certain amount of location tracking, just to make sure that if they’re out in the park at 3am or something, somewhere [outside of] their normal area, that they’re just checked on to make sure that they’re OK being there.”
Richards hopes to have suits available for sale within the aged care space in roughly 18 months.