I’d been sitting down for about fifteen minutes listening to a presentation. It was the first morning of Computex proper, and it was about the Internet of Things and the power of The Internet of Things. Intel was telling attendees about the power of IoT devices, with small low-power chips, that can change the way we do everyday things.
I’m a hardcore gamer, and so it’s not a topic that I get naturally excited about. But then the presentation ended and we were given the chance to talk to some of the inventors, entrepreneurs and students trying to create real world solutions. And then I saw a pouch.
It was sitting on a table for Smart X Lab, a company which created their own mesh network as an alternative to Wi-Fi. They’re largely focused on the healthcare sector, having already deployed their technology some aged care hospitals and facilities around Taiwan.
The point of their mesh network is so they can electronically monitor every patient’s position and vitals in real time. It’s accessible and controllable via the web, and the company’s CEO Max Yeh showed off a live demo. It’s largely what you’d expect: a map of the hospice, locations for all the patients, sensors, cameras, and everything else required to keep track of the elderly.
But next to the computer was a small pouch. It looks like a traditional Chinese blessing pouch — which was precisely what it was. The elderly don’t like to wear wristbands or have cords tethered to them, but their carers need to have a handle on where they are. “People with dementia like to wander,” Yeh joked.
My grandfather liked to wander. He had dementia too.
Our family was fortunate in that the nursing home where he stayed was only a few minutes drive from our house. It needed to be. He couldn’t stay with us, but he didn’t really want to stay in the nursing home either.
So he wandered, and often my mother would go find him. The nursing home staff often didn’t or hadn’t noticed, but then our family took more care of my grandfather in his final years anyway.
That’s the bit about caring for your family and loved ones. Nobody tells you how much effort it takes. They can’t tell you what it feels like to get a phone call in the dead of night to be told a member of your family isn’t breathing.
They don’t tell you about the disgust you harbour for other people when they don’t care for your loved ones. And they can’t tell you what it’s like to shoulder that frustration and then look into the eyes of someone who has loved you for your entire life, only to realise that they have no idea who you are.
He really belonged in the dementia ward, but my mother battled tirelessly to make sure he didn’t spend his last years there. Dementia patients aren’t treated as well. Doors are locked. Walks outside are gently frowned upon. That’s not good for someone who was famous for his boxing career and running the local gym.
So he stayed in the same ward as my grandmother. That was healthier for him. But it also meant he was monitored less. People wouldn’t know where he was. They wouldn’t check to see if he was cold at night. Sometimes he’d miss meals and the only saving grace was the fact that my mother always brought spare sandwiches that he liked.
More of this stuff can now be tracked. That’s the point of the Internet of Things. The most innocuous of things can upload data to the cloud.
Data that says your grandfather’s walking around on a road at 2 in the morning. Data that tells you your grandmother is breathing just fine. Data that reduces the need to physically be by their side, just to make sure they’re warm, safe and sound.
Data I wish my mother had over a decade ago.
The author travelled to Computex 2016 as a guest of Intel.