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Smart Home Technology Fosters Self-Reliance

Voice commands to turn on lights, set the thermostat, or handle another household task is more than a luxury for people who have limited mobility. A wounded veteran and his family have found that smart home technology fosters independence and self-reliance.

The Situation

Senior Airman Brian Kolfage lost three limbs in 2004 during combat in Iraq. An article on Electronic Home magazine, Amazon Alexa Voice Control Helps Wounded U.S. Airman Live Independently, describes how various companies came together through the R.I.S.E. program to provide hands-free technology for the Kolfage family. They now have control “over the residence’s lights, security system, HVAC equipment, and audio and video components through voice commands.”

Someone with impaired mobility can’t easily walk around the house to set the temperature or change the lighting so they become dependent on others. Automation technologies are raising the standard of living for people who have been seriously injured and gives independence.

The Helpers

Actor Gary Sinise is well-known for his portrayal of Lieutenant Dan Taylor in the movie Forrest Gump. His foundation started The R.I.S.E. program (Restoring Independence, Supporting Empowerment) to build and donate modern, accessible smart homes for wounded veterans across the U.S.

By the end of 2017, there will be 58 smart homes completed or on the way to being done thanks to manufacturers and integrators that want to give back.

The Products

The ELAN software system was installed for the Kolfage family. In late 2016, the ELAN 8.0 was unveiled that lets users integrate Amazon Echo, Dish, and the Denon Heos wireless sound system.

Amazon Alexa gives the family voice or iPad/iPhone control of the home’s lights, HVAC, security system and cameras, televisions, and multi-room audio.

The People

Technology is giving wounded veterans a self-reliance that wasn’t possible by only relying on caregivers. Other segments of the U.S. population will be able to use smart technology to improve their quality of life.

Professor Henrik Christiansen sees how consumerism is shaping future uses of technology. In his role as the director of the Contextual Robotics Institute at the University of San Diego, Dr. Christiansen wants to explore how robotics and other forms of technology can empower people.

He gave his views during an interview in the article The Consumerization of Robots – Implications for You, Me, and Industry, available on the website of the Robotic Industries Association.

A milestone to achieve, says Dr. Christiansen, is using technology to let elderly “stay another 5 years in their homes (aging in place) rather than having to go to a managed care facility.”

San Diego has the largest health system in California and he is working with a major, unnamed sponsor to see how robots can assist people in their homes. Again, the tasks are simple but critical to a person’s well-being like getting out of bed, getting dressed, remembering to take medications, and being mobile outside the home.

Using technology to strengthen the vulnerable means the design stage begins with the perspective of how equipment can serve a person and not the other way around. Dr. Christiansen is bridging the technical and human elements by bringing people together from UC San Diego’s engineering, computer science, and social sciences departments.

Automation is a positive force for our workplaces and our homes. Learn about the trends and breakthroughs that matter with the many free resources available through A3automate.org.