Telus’s Allen Devine helps seniors remain independent

Using devices such as sensors that monitor activity without invading a person's privacy, the telecom giant is looking at new ways to help seniors remain independent

As “chief dreamer” for Telus Communications Co., Allen Devine comes up with new ways to use technology. A concept may remain just that or end up being developed by Telus and/or another company. One area Devine is exploring is using the Internet of Things to prolong people’s independence as they age.

For example, placing sensors around the house could monitor aging parents or grandparents in a way that doesn’t invade their privacy but will alert family members or care providers of a change in behaviour patterns: if the fridge door isn’t opened or the coffee maker isn’t turned on by a certain time in the morning, that could be a signal that something is wrong. A TV screen built into a door could recognize that a senior is heading outside in the middle of the night and video conference in a family member to suggest going back to bed. Even toys can be adapted to more serious purposes: a Sphero BB-8 toy Star Wars android that maps a room as it collides with solid objects could be modified to detect when an elderly person has fallen down and call for help.

Closer to home, Devine has connected a Philips Hue light bulb, which can be operated remotely and changes colour, to his mother’s sleep monitor. If the light is green in the morning, he knows that she had a good rest. Yellow means she was tossing and turning, and if the light turns red, she slept poorly or got up early, so he should probably check in on her. Devine is also experimenting with devices from smart light bulbs in his mum’s suite that measure how long it takes her to walk down the hallway—a slower pace could indicate health issues—to sensors in the bathtub that can trigger it to automatically drain if she loses consciousness.