The Ambient Assisted Living Market is Improving with Age

by Parks Associates | Feb. 6, 2018

Guest post by Thomas Rockmann, VP Connected Home, Deutsche Telekom 

It is a fact that the global population is increasing, and the overall age weighting is changing. The world population is expected to hit 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100. In parallel, the global populace is gradually aging, and nowhere more than in Western Europe. One in three UK babies born in 2013 is expected to reach 100 in the UK alone, and the elderly population is forecast to double globally by 2030.

This ongoing shift in aging population has increased the strain on healthcare resources, with research showing that health spending per person steeply increases after the age of 50, with people aged 85 and over costing the NHS an average of £7,000 a year.

Ambient assisted living (AAL) is one solution that could have a significant impact and has already resulted in a variety of European partnerships being established to research and fund AAL development. The Ambient Assisted Living Joint Program (AAL JP) was launched in the summer of 2008, and now supports more than 100 research projects.

The downstream opportunities for telcos and service providers are extensive, as the ambient assisted living market size is estimated to grow from USD 1.20 billion in 2015 to USD 3.96 billion by 2020.

This expansion can be seen in terms of the increasing demand, and also as a result of improving technology to deliver compact and cost-effective solutions. The wider picture of smart home technology penetration is also a key component here.

However, there has been a psychological barrier to AAL adoption that the technologists did not foresee - older citizens do not want to be disempowered by ‘special’ technology. As generations of digital natives age, the desirability of dedicated AAL reduces too - but this is where smart home services and enterprises come to the rescue.

The power of open standards-based smart home devices to address pain points common across all ages - such as smart lighting or heating, for example – is considerable, and surmounts many of the psychological barriers to adoption. The seamless nature of smart home technology, and the wide range of sensors, from water and moisture meters, smoke alarms and motion detectors can easily serve dual-purpose in an AAL environment.

Indeed, this networking of sensors and communications devices could take a step further, such as in the example of a smoke detector using DECT ULE to connect to mobile or fixed line networks that could be used as a communication device in a fire-related emergency.

Voice is of course an increasingly key element of smart home initiatives today, and this has particular resonance in the AAL context. Not only from an accessibility point of view, but also by removing the psychological requirement to manually engage with technology, voice control already breaking down technological barriers. An example is Deutsche Telekom’s open smart home platform which interoperates with Amazon Echo via an Alexa skill. Customers can now control their lights, blinds, alarm system and much more with just their voice, and different users can add an additional layer of personalisation by creating ‘situations’, such as "Off to bed" where the lights are switched off in the living room and dimmed in the hallway, the heating is turned down and the blinds are lowered. Today’s smart home systems will become increasingly augmented with AI (artificial intelligence) technology, meaning ‘visibility’ of the individual technologies reduce as smaller decisions are automated.

It is a smart home–style standards-based approach that offers a best practice solution to the puzzle of AAL. In a multi-generational family home, different users can experience different user journeys and relationships with smart home technology, breaking down age-related adoption barriers in usage.

Another innovative concept with potentially significant impact on AAL development is integrating smart home concepts into a social construct - called community IoT. While these social IoT deployments bring value to the whole community, it is arguable that older citizens stand to gain most from dedicated social networks of this type. Light touch monitoring of vulnerable citizens has been a challenge for generations, but having digital alternatives is not only increasingly viable but also essential. This concept will also become more relevant as ‘smart cities’ evolve, and city dwellers are able to experience a more personalised version of the city as smart elements react to the individual’s needs.

The future holds considerable technological change, but of course humans tend to change more slowly than the pace of technological progress, so the future of AAL and smart home technologies will still have much to do with trust. Recognised brands with robust track records will stand to gain market advantage from the expansion of the smart home into AAL.

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