IBM and British startup Cera Care are teaming up to test out how lidar laser sensors might be able to help seniors. The six-month pilot will look into whether the sensors — which are used to help self-driving cars “see” — can allow elderly people to stay in their homes for longer without violating their privacy.
The lidar systems utilize laser light pulses to capture fine-grained images. In the pilot, the two companies will install the sensors in around 10 to 15 volunteer households in the U.K., starting in June, to find out if they can create a detailed picture of a homecare client’s daily routine and home environment. The goal is to alert caregivers if there are any changes to a person’s physical and psychological health, such as changes in gait or a fall.
If the pilot is successful, it could open up a new market for lidar, which has recently fallen out of favor with some carmakers. Nissan and Tesla, for example, have complained that the technology is expensive and unnecessary.
While the technology doesn’t recognize faces, there are concerns about the tracking and location data that will be collected through the sensors. However, Ben Maruthappu, co-founder and CEO of Cera Care, hopes the technology will help the care system become more personalized, as the demand for homecare surpasses the number of homecare workers working in the industry.
“Technology like this can help us solve that gap between demand and supply because it means we can pinpoint when a care worker needs to be in a person’s home,” Maruthappu told Reuters.
Aejaz Zahid, a director at assistroniX and expert on new technologies to help people age well, added that a major benefit of lidar could be fall detection, which is a serious issue for senior citizens that researchers have struggled to detect with wearables.