Data in the Dirt: Technology in Farming Redux

Agronomist working in a wheat field.Last year I blogged on unique uses of technology in farming. Spring is in the air here in the Pacific Northwest, so I want to revisit that thread and highlight a technology and company born right here at the University of Oregon. This company is researching the interaction between plants and fertilizers, particularly nitrogen. They have developed a technology and device that will allow a farmer or grower to monitor the nitrogen level of the soil, thus preventing excess fertilization and runoff.

SupraSensor Technologies

SupraSensor Technologies was formed in 2012 from the graduate work of Calden Carroll in partnership with his professors, Darren Johnson and Mike Haley. They discovered that the interaction between plant cells and their nitrogen level could be measured. Nitrogen fertilizer is water soluble and excess nitrogen runs off and mixes with the water table. In some areas of the country, there are large algal blooms that were fed by runoff. Algal blooms change water pH and oxygen levels, which harm fish and other organisms, and some species of algae are toxic, even deadly, to people and animals.

Field Nutrient Sensors

Carroll and other researchers did not stop at identifying this molecular interaction. They developed a device called a Field Nutrient Sensor™ (FNS™), which measures the nitrogen level in the soil, just below root level. This information is collected wirelessly so that a farmer can determine precisely where to fertilize and when to stop. It is estimated that 30 percent of all fertilizer runs off, so this device would reduce the use of chemicals, thus saving money for the farmer and promoting a sustainable and healthier farm. Collecting the data wirelessly is much less labor intensive and yields more accurate and timely data.

Farming Meets Information Technology

SupraSensor Technologies has test sensors in the field right now and is seeking funding for commercialization. It has secured seed funding from the National Science Foundation and through state and national grants. The ability to collect this important data means that farms will now need information technology experts to not only help with the data collection and wireless networking but also with data analytics to create a coherent picture of the health of the farm, the plants, and the soil. Information technology is emerging from the computer room and finding its way to the farm, the manufacturing floor, the research site, and wherever data is being turned into solutions for a better world.

Thoughts

There are many opportunities developing for IT professionals and it is an exciting time to be involved in tackling real world problems like healthy farms and sustainable ecosystems. Do you know of other technology and research breakthroughs that you would like me to highlight? Let me know if have you cool things that need to be shared.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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All Things Health

Male hand holding stethoscope emerges from a laptop screen.I have blogged in the past on the Internet of Things (IoT) and also on health and technology. Today’s post is about the intersection of those two areas. It is about how the Internet of Things can keep us potentially safe and healthy.

Tracking Your Health

With the introduction of the Apple Watch yesterday, Apple also introduced ResearchKit, a follow on to HealthKit that was introduced last year. This allows you to participate in research studies through your iPhone. Hardware on the iPhone such as voice recorders or motion sensors can help you track steps taken or voice patterns that may detect the onset of Parkinson’s disease. This data can then be shared, with your permission, with researchers so they get a much larger global sampling for their studies. Of course, the data is also available to you as well so that you can monitor and be an advocate for your own health. Perhaps, you are not getting as much exercise as you need or perhaps there are early warning signs of a chronic disease that you need to pay attention to. It would be great to have a device that would detect the early signs of a stroke and alert you and others to the possibility—early detection and intervention is critical in this case.

Smart Health

In a recent article by Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, she highlights some devices in the intersection of Internet of Things and health monitoring. Among the devices she mentions are these:

  • Scales that monitor not only your weight but also your body composition. This is a great way to closely track your health day to day and over a long period.
  • Beds that monitor your heart rate, respiration rate, motion, and “bed presence” or how long you have been in bed can help you track your health through nonintrusive means. These measures can give you early warning signs of health issues.
  • Toilets that can monitor your weight, BMI, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. This is important to help you understand when you are becoming pre-diabetic and need to change your diet or exercise routine.
  • Motion monitors such as FitBit or the new Apple Watch which remind us through a chime or haptic feedback when we have been sitting too long or have not completed our 10,000 steps for the day yet.
  • Smart lamps designed to change light intensity depending on the time of day and also monitor your sleep (or lack thereof) and remind you when it is time to retire by a friendly blink. These are connected to your home network and can be controlled through your smartphone.

Thoughts

Where some see opportunity and peace of mind, others see intrusiveness and privacy issues. We can now monitor very detailed health information and share that with our doctor or in the case of ResearchKit, researchers trying to develop a breakthrough to eradicate, or at least control common health issues. A blessing for some, a potential health information breach for others. I think that, by combining health monitoring and the Internet of Things, we can enjoy unobtrusive devices that let us be in charge of our own wellness and health. Let me know what you think. Do you use health monitoring devices? Do they work for you? I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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The Gamification of Nature

Two people find a cache in the forest.I recently helped judge a graduate poster session and was intrigued by a couple of posters highlighting research on how to use technology to engage youth and adults with nature. One of the research findings suggested that youth who use tablets to identify different plant species interact more deeply with nature. Another poster highlighted how creating games and challenges encouraged adults to get more involved with nature. This is the gamification of nature, as odd as that sounds. These got me to thinking about other ways that we can entice people to get outdoors for exercise and to discover nature.

Geocaching

The mild winter here in the Pacific Northwest has allowed me to get out and do more geocaching. This is an activity that started in Oregon and has spread worldwide. It is essentially hide and seek using geospatial coordinates and handheld GPS devices or smartphones. A cache can be as small as a button or as big as an ammunition box or larger. When someone places a cache, they publish the geographic location on geocaching.com for others to see. They may also publish clues, in case it is hidden in an obscure place. People seeking the cache can then pick up the coordinates from the web site and find it using their GPS device. This is an excellent way to get people outside—in urban areas and wilderness—to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. I tried to find two just this morning and one was quick and easy, the other eludes me. Even in the attempt I got in a good hike, so I still came out a winner.

There’s An App For That

Author Richard Louv coined the term “nature deficit disorder” in his 2005 book Last Child In The Woods to describe our disconnect with nature. Louv argued that some behavioral issues may be caused by a decline in how much time youth spend outdoors. Others, rightly or wrongly, conclude that youth spend so much time with technology that there is no time to explore the outdoors. I am suggesting that the same technology that is blamed for creating “nature deficit disorder” can help draw youth and adults back into nature. The graduate students at the University of Oregon are working to make that a reality. One organization promoting this shift is Agents of Nature. In partnership with various schools and public lands agencies, they have created an app that requires players to identify things in nature in order to move ahead and gain points and position. This requires them to get outside and discover things and places they otherwise might never experience.

Thoughts

I am excited about the possibility of introducing people to nature through technology. This is a way to blend our need to connect with each other and with nature. What do you think? Do people need a reason to get outdoors? Is technology a barrier or can it be a catalyst? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Gaining a Seat at the Table: The Value of Finance Education

Business people in a meeting.In the AIM program we offer a finance course to prepare students to justify projects, work and speak with finance professionals, and understand and execute budgets. I think it is important that all professionals understand financial calculations and are able to determine whether the project or new equipment they are proposing will truly add value to the organization in the long term or short term. I want to share with you some ways that financial training has helped me in my career and my life.

Speak The Language

For at least two decades I have heard IT professionals exclaim “if only I could get a seat at the table, things would be different!” They contend that if only they could sit with high-level managers or sit at the “big kids” table then they could make them understand the value of IT. I contend that in order to sit at that table, one needs to speak and comprehend the language. When the other managers start talking about cap-ex or op-ex or accelerated depreciation, you need to know what they are talking about and how it affects you, your department, and your budget. That is why we offer a finance course in AIM, to prepare our graduates to engage in a meaningful conversation with other managers. We want our graduates to have a seat at the table.

Finance Background

I took four accounting courses as an undergraduate and one as a graduate student—one in investment accounting, plus the standard run of beginning, intermediate and advanced accounting. The first has proven invaluable in evaluating investments, both in the corporate world and for my own personal finance. To be able to assess a company in terms of earnings and profit or loss makes the difference between a losing investment and financial success. The other three courses were also valuable, although at the time I had doubts. This was before the days of Excel or QuickBooks so we did double entry accounting and wrote numbers in left columns or right columns; debits to the left, credits to the right. I can still hear the mantra in my head. While I questioned the benefits of the exercise and how I might apply it to my job as a systems administrator, I was fortunate to be able to see the big picture value of dividing expenses up into long-term capital expenses and short-term operating expenses and uniquely accounting for both of these. I also saw the value in calculating return on investment in order to justify a project or purchase. I saw how it gave me legitimacy and a seat at the table.

Thoughts

My financial education has helped me to become a successful professional and I am grateful that I had early exposure to the fundamental principles of accounting. Although it is a language of its own, it is important to be able to speak and understand it in order to get ahead, and it is part of a well-rounded graduate education.

Has an education in accounting principles helped you in your work and profession? Are there any other “languages” that you have found important in order to move to the next level? Let me know your thoughts.
Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Competency-Based Education

Man adding a cog gear in a row of old cog gearsI have been reading about competency-based education (CBE) and want to share my findings and thoughts with you. By definition, competency-based education differs from traditional education in that it is not measured by the traditional credit hour. You complete a course of study when you have mastered the skill at hand. That may take a day or it may take a year, or anywhere in between. You pay a flat rate for a subscription time period and how many courses you complete in that time is up to you. Most existing CBE coursework, such as that from the University of Wisconsin, is offered online. If you have already mastered a skill, you can prove it through skills testing and move on to another course.

Credit for Prior Learning

There are two main draws for competency-based education: credit for prior learning and self-paced learning. Learning culminates in a test to demonstrate mastery of the subject, whether you studied for one day or 100 days; the focus is on mastery, not time. A recent Harvard Business Review article stated: “It is vital to underscore, however, that competency-based education is about mastery foremost—not speed. These pathways importantly assess and certify what a student knows and can do.” This is good news for the returning student who has already mastered a particular skill through technical school or on-the-job training. It is also good news for potential employers who want to know what you know and not necessarily how many hours you spent in a classroom. A potential employee could hit the ground running and not have to go through an extensive onboarding program to fill in the gaps from academia to the workforce.

Self-Paced Learning

The other benefit to competency-based education is that each student learns at his or her own pace. If students need more time to complete a topic before being evaluated, they just need to sign up for another block or period. If students need less time to complete a skill because of prior knowledge or training, they can be evaluated and move on to the next course. This lets them move at their own pace and potentially lessens the cost of their education if they are aggressive in taking and passing competencies.

Current Offerings

University of Wisconsin, University of Michigan, and Purdue University are among a handful of top colleges experimenting with this new format. Western Governors University has been using a CBE model for almost two decades. There are several for-profit schools as well. Wisconsin now offers seven programs that range from certificates to bachelor’s degrees in IT, sales, nursing, and international business. The University of Michigan offers a master’s degree in medical health professions education. This is targeted at doctors, nurses, and administrators who find themselves in a teaching role. They are targeting professionals who already have a terminal degree but need to fill in skills to ensure they are competent educators. It is completely online and self-paced to fit the schedules of those already working in the health care field.

Thoughts

I think this is a great innovation for educational institutions, students, and potential employers. I believe that the key to making this type of education successful is to form an ongoing partnership between the academic institution and employers to ensure that the competencies that educators are teaching are relevant to the business and industry that will be receiving the newly minted graduate. The employer wins because they know they are getting a competent employee who can contribute right away. The academic institution wins because they have a much larger pool of returning students to draw from and can train them in real world skills.

Is this the new wave of higher education or just a passing fad? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Is College Essential for Young Entrepreneurs?

Young business people in a meeting.In a recent article about Thiel Fellows the question was raised once again: “Is college for everyone?” With rising tuition rates and more young people competing to get into the best schools, it is a valid question. Does a college education give you a return on investment commensurate with the investment of time and money and the opportunity cost of foregoing other ventures? I have touched on this question in previous blog posts but want to visit it again, hopefully, with a fresh perspective.

Thiel Fellows

Peter Thiel is a billionaire who made his fortune in finance and venture capital investing. He was one of the original founders of PayPal and provided the first outside funding for Facebook. In 2010 he founded the Thiel Fellowship. Thiel Fellows are given $100,000 to forego college and instead focus on their own ideas and passions. His premise is that the brightest and most motivated young people should be given an opportunity to explore their ideas outside of the walls of academia (though Thiel himself has degrees in philosophy and law from Stanford). Fellows are supported for two years through networking, summits on entrepreneurship, and connections to venture capital. Thiel has provided for a contingent of approximately 20 people under age 20 each year since 2010 and there are openings for the next class.

Where are They Now?

The author of the article mentioned above interviewed a small number of Thiel Fellow graduates. Some have successfully formed start-up companies. Some moved on from their original idea when it proved unworkable. Others have actually gone back to complete their education. They all credit at least part of their success to the Thiel Foundation. It helped them focus on their ideas and gave them a framework and network to build on those ideas and produce a product or service.

University Entrepreneurship Programs

The Thiel Fellowship comes at a time when universities are growing their own in-house entrepreneurship programs. The University of Oregon, for example, is a partner in the Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network (RAIN) Eugene. This gives students the opportunity to work on projects and connect with people in the community and learn how to start a business from the ground up. Critics of Mr. Thiel are hoping that programs like RAIN will give students a chance to pursue personal projects and a college degree at the same time. In other words, it is not one or the other but both.

Thoughts

I believe that college is very important but realize that life takes us down many paths. College is just one of those paths. A rigid four-year college experience right after high school may not be best for everyone, and we need to make sure that we have a way for learners to step in and out of the college experience as they choose. College may be interspersed with work, research, travel, volunteer opportunities, or starting a company. I pursued a college career while working full time and found it a very rewarding experience. My son has completed two tech schools and is at the top of his vocation. Now in his mid-twenties, he is contemplating going back to school to complete his bachelor’s degree. Is Peter Thiel correct in his assumptions? For some young people, absolutely. For others, an opportunity such as that would be lost without the background of a college experience. What do you think? Is college for everyone? Would the money best be spent elsewhere? Is there an absolute prescribed time for going to college? Let me know your thoughts and experiences.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Will Social Robots Improve Our Quality of Life?

Touch to the future--robot and human touch fingertips.I came across an article on social robots that made me think about their potential uses. The first social robots were developed in the late 1990s as an experiment to create an optimal human-machine interface. These robots generally have human characteristics such as eyes and a mouth, and they can interact with humans based on visual and audio feedback gathered through microphones and cameras. They express themselves through speech and movement from their humanoid features.

Origins

The first social robot was created by Cynthia Breazeal as part of her graduate studies at MIT. She is currently an associate professor of media arts and sciences at MIT as well as the director of the Media Lab’s Personal Robot Group. Her original research focused on the viability of human-robot interaction, and from this research she created Kismet, the first social robot. Since Kismet was created, other social robots have been built with even more sophisticated anthropomorphic features and more powerful sensors. These are fine for playing games, but how can they help us in our real lives? It turns out that they may have profound potential for helping some people.

Breaking Through Autism

Social robots work well with children because they can be made to appear friendlier than humans. This is especially important for children with autism. In a recent study at Vanderbilt University, it was found that children with autism spectrum disorder paid more attention to robots and followed their instructions almost as well as they followed instructions issued from humans. There is a lot to decode in a human face when trying to learn a new task. Emotions such as anger, sadness, happiness, fatigue, and boredom can be subtle, and children may not recognize the cues quickly. Robots present a nonthreatening interface that increases the development of social communication skills in children, particularly those with autism.

Socially Assistive Robots

A robot named Paro is helping seniors to become more focused and engaged. The robot resembles a baby seal and is designed to fill the role of a pet without the potential mess or responsibilities. The Paro robot has microprocessors and sensors that respond to touch, light, movement, and voices. In a pilot project, it proved especially helpful with seniors with dementia. While it is not designed to take the place of family members or caregivers, researchers have found that the nonthreatening nature of Paro tends to draw people out and encourages them to talk about things in their lives or their memories.

Thoughts

I have written before about assistive technologies, but I am excited about the development of social robots that can help foster communication skills. We have had robots for years that operate in manufacturing and work in areas that may be hazardous to humans. Robots that are more personable and interactive can help break through barriers that we sometimes struggle to breach. Some are concerned that robots will take over tasks that we should be doing for ourselves, but in this case, I welcome the assistance. What do you think? Let me know.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Technology in Architecture

Modern building with trees.With football season still squarely in the rearview mirror, my thoughts this week have been on architecture and technology. Fortunately, my first choice for incredible architectural breakthroughs is the new Atlanta Falcons’ football stadium.

Oculus Roof

The new Atlanta Stadium—a $1.2 billion project that is currently being built—will have a roof that opens and closes like a camera shutter. The roof will have eight petals that open in eight minutes to create an open-air stadium. When open, the roof will look like a flower from above. In addition, the developers plan to meet the highest LEED certification through solar panels and floor-to-ceiling windows in one end to allow for more natural light. Besides having electric car charging stations, the stadium will feature a “Technology Lounge” allowing fans to access digital media (including fantasy football) while watching the game.

Technology in Homebuilding

I have written in the past about the smart home that integrates different functions such as heating, lighting, security, sound, and even appliances like washers and dryers into one remotely accessible network. These are designed to make it easy to manage the home system from one device. The latest push is to create a network standard where all devices will talk together, similar to the office networking standards developed years ago.

Another use of technology in architecture is high-tech windows. My wife and I built our home 20 years ago and were careful to install low-E argon filled windows. We have a lot of windows to take advantage of passive solar light and heat. These windows have kept our heating bill low over the years. One of the new types of windows, however, would have saved us even more money. This special glass made by GlassX employs a phase change material (PCM) to detect the type of solar radiation and light coming through the window. It has the ability to store excessive heat in a substrate embedded in the window and can then release that heat into the structure during cooler night-time temperatures. This technology has been used in commercial buildings and is scaling now to home use. These windows and similar innovations are all aimed at reducing home energy consumption.

Bluetooth Enabled Toilets

One of the more interesting examples of advances in home technology is the Bluetooth-enabled toilet by Kohler. You can stream music from any device to the built-in speakers. You can also choose between eight different colors of ambient light and warm the seat via the remote control. The toilet opens and closes automatically and has an integrated bidet with regulated water temperature, set through the remote control. All of this will only add $6,338.50 to your building or remodeling budget!

Thoughts

A common thread in architectural innovation is sustainability. You see this in the push for LEED certification, and you see it in the individual products that are coming to market. Even the toilet mentioned previously is doing its part by promoting low water usage. These innovations are designed to reduce consumption of natural resources but at the same time provide us with conveniences and control over our environment. This looks like a sustainable business model to me. What do you think?

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Can Community College Really Be Free?

Black graduation cap on white background with price tag attached to tassel.I am writing this just before the annual State of the Union address so I am admittedly lacking in details, but I want to start a conversation on the proposal to provide free community college education for everyone. This proposal was announced two weeks ago and has drawn a mixed reaction. The proposal is this: community college tuition shall be free to all who “make steady progress toward completing their program”(whitehouse.gov). Students would be required to attend at least half time and maintain a 2.5 GPA. The federal government would fund this program with $60 billion over the next ten years and states that opt in would bear 25 percent of the cost.

Benefits

This proposal would benefit low-income students who are already taking advantage of Pell grants, as well as all who want to complete the first two years of a college education. In essence, this would be an extension of government funded K-12 education and would remove the cost barrier that prevents many students from continuing their education. The benefit would apply to vocational and certificate programs as well as those programs that prepare students to transfer to a four-year college or university. The national government proposal is modeled after a program launching this fall in Tennessee.

Costs

This proposal would cost an estimated $60 billion with the federal government supplying 75 percent of the money and states covering the remainder. While details are light at this point, the money is expected to come from higher taxes and eliminating some tax breaks, including the tax-free status of 529 college savings plans. Without the tax-free growth benefit such college savings plans would likely disappear as parents would seek other investment vehicles.

Questions

This proposal has set off bells and sirens in my head. Let me be clear, I am a huge proponent of higher education at any level and would love to have it be accessible to all, but there are a lot of unanswered questions. Here are my top questions, and I invite you to add your own (or answer mine):

  1. If tuition is covered, how is a student going to pay for room and board, or will that be covered as well?
  2. If every high school graduate enrolls in community college, who funds the expansion of the community college infrastructure, such as buildings? It will put a burden on the state to keep up with the new incoming students.
  3. Following on the question above, if everyone enrolls in community college because it is free, who is left to complete their first two years at public and private universities? Will these now also become two-year universities for juniors and seniors? If not, will they restructure their curriculum to favor those students that completed their first two years as a resident as opposed to being a transfer student?
  4. What will be the opportunities for those newly minted community college graduates who want to complete a higher degree? Will they be limited because of cost or other factors?
  5. Will cash-strapped states want to participate in this program? If so, will that take money from the already shrinking pool available to four-year state institutions?
  6. Will we create pockets of states that offer free community college tuition versus those that don’t? Residency requirements suddenly become a moot point.

Thoughts

I have a lot more questions, but I am hoping that at least some of them will be answered in the days to come. From the initial proposal, it does not seem well thought out in terms of economics. But the overarching question that I don’t think we are asking is: what do we value about a community college education? Do we value it as a vocational education program or as a gateway to a full university education? Do we value it as a means to teach functional, applied skills, or for teaching higher thinking and reasoning skills in preparation for a university education? How do we value our community colleges?

These are some of my questions and I would love to hear from you. What questions or answers do you have? Perhaps together we can figure this out.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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Cutting-edge Technologies for an Aging Population

Photo of a woman pushing the button on an emergency call system.I recently read an interesting article highlighting technology solutions for an aging population. I have never thought specifically about technology that can compensate for the inevitable aging process, but was fascinated by the products that are being introduced. I will most likely be using some of these technologies in the future, so I am thankful that someone is thinking ahead. I want to dedicate this post to highlighting several of these assistive technologies and products, and I’d like to hear from you about those I may have missed.

Telehealth

Care Innovations is a joint venture between Intel and General Electric that focuses on solutions dedicated to aging in place. Telehealth is a big part of the push to enable seniors to stay in their homes instead of being moved to a care facility or a hospital. Technologists from GE, Intel, and others are developing technologies for allowing people to monitor their own health and to work with a remote care provider. Among these technologies are heart rate and blood pressure monitors that transmit information in real time. In the works are systems that automatically notify emergency personnel of a dangerous fall. An overriding goal in all of this research is to develop technologies that are unobtrusive. Simple interactions result in successful and sustained use of the devices or applications.

Cool Gadgets

One of my favorite devices is Liftware. This is a handheld device that can be fitted with a spoon or fork and dampens shaking from essential tremors or other diseases. As the person shakes, the spoon counters by vibrating in the opposite direction. It is shown to remove up to 70 percent of vibrations caused by tremors. I recently had dinner with a wonderful gentleman who had tremors, and I began to wonder how he would ever be able to eat soup. I saw a review on this product two days later and I had my answer. What a wonderful innovation for those suffering from this affliction.

Assistive Devices

A recent CNN article highlighted assistive devices that aid Alzheimer’s patients and allow them to stay in their homes longer. These include sensors by SmartThings that monitor whether they took their medications, whether they left their home during certain hours, and whether there is smoke in the kitchen or flooding in the laundry room. Such devices are not new, but in these cases they are connected to a wireless hub and alert family members or caregivers about the activity of the resident. As the article points out, one of the unique problems that arise from this technology is whether you alert the resident to the fact that they are being monitored. Well-meaning family members who do not reveal the monitoring are simply trying to keep the resident safe. Granted, this is not spying by the NSA, but there are some delicate privacy issues involved, even on a family level.

Thoughts

Personally, I am excited about the use of assistive technologies, particularly when it allows people to remain independent longer and out of invasive care. Would I trust my son to monitor me when I get to the stage where I can no longer be trusted to make all of my own decisions? Absolutely. I am hoping that by that point he will be able to supplement my Bitcoins with some from his own stash when I accidentally go on a fine chocolate buying spree.

Do you have any experience with assistive technologies? Do you rely on apps or devices to remind you about daily tasks or are you helping a loved one to remain independent through technology? I would love to hear from you. I think this will be a growing area of interest.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

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