One of the highest risks for elderly persons living alone or spending much time alone is falling down and being unable to call for help, especially in case of loss of consciousness. The main challenge in installing ICT-based monitoring systems is the balance between surveillance and privacy, i.e. home safety versus ethics. Hence, since privacy is a fundamental human right, any means for augmenting detection of critical situations in the living environments of elderly persons need to respect and ensure privacy. Falls can occur principally in all home locations and situations. Wearable tools currently used for monitoring elderly people are often disposed in such situations, rendering them of little use for detecting potentially hazardous situations. As a consequence, “smart ambient” approaches, like vision-based surveillance, appear to be more appropriate for that purpose.
This CARE initiative is an end-user driven R&D activity where end-users represent major market players in AAL activities as they are either elderly persons or they have direct relation and responsibility towards elderly persons ensuring their safety and independent living. The R&D consortium is well balanced where one third is research institutes (AIT, BME EMT), one third is SMEs (Everon, SensoCube) and one third is end-users (Senioren Wohnpark Weser in Germany and Yrjö & Hanna in Finland). Selected elderly homes of the partner end-users are used for the evaluation and demonstration of the CARE concept.
In the early phase of the project, it was necessary to perform interviews of end-users and collect a list of services needed as well as to find out the most relevant and frequent critical situations encountered. More than 200 end-users (primary, secondary and tertiary) in Austria, Finland, Germany and Hungary were questioned. The interviewed end-users agreed that there is a definitive need for a fall detector at elderly homes and that the actual fall detectors (e.g. wearable systems) are not satisfactory and do not have high acceptance in the independent living context. Based on these interview results, a list of requirements was created for the CARE ICT system with a focus on the person fall as the main critical situation. Architecture of the biologically-inspired stereo vision sensor was designed and the sensor and algorithms for the detection of falls were developed. The CARE system is actually under testing and evaluation with first installations in Germany.