February 25, 2010
| by Lisa Montgomery
Talk to just about anybody, and they’ll have a story to share about an aging loved one. Often, those stories are punctuated with feelings of worry, guilt and uncertainty over how to best care for their elderly or disabled relative or friend.
Control4 and CloseBy Network have teamed up to provide a simple and affordable system that allows caregivers to keep an eye on loved ones through real-time monitoring. Composed of a combination of wireless sensors, software and a secure web application, the system gathers and distributes information about the person’s activity throughout the day to a CloseBy server. Invited caregivers can log on to view the recorded data on a computer screen. They can also receive instant alerts via email or text when specified sensors are tripped or are if there is no activity within a certain period of time.
What makes the system special is its ability to enable people to age in a dignified way in their own homes, says Kip Meacham, CloseBy Network vice president of marketing. “Neither the user nor the caregiver needs to interact with the technology,” he continues, “unlike other systems that require a user to press a button for help.”
Instead, wireless sensors planted unobtrusively throughout the home “call out” and keep track of the user’s whereabouts. The sensors can be used in a variety of ways: planted underneath the carpet by the bed, they can monitor a user’s sleep patterns; attached to the refrigerator door, they can track when the user has last eaten. By the stove, they can alert someone if the user has forgotten to turn off the burner; placed in a hallway, they can monitor if the loved one is moving around and maintaining their regular schedule.
Installed by trained Control4 dealers, the system is expandable and can be easily modified to suit the changing needs of the user. Grant Jones, strategic account manager at CloseBy Network, relates the following story: After noticing a drastic weight loss in his father, he added a contact sensor to the door of his father’s refrigerator. “In a week’s time, it reported that the door had been open only three times. With that information we were able to discover exactly what was happening and remedy the problem quickly.” He and his siblings now take turns delivering meals to their father.
Information like this is also helpful to healthcare professionals, says Doug Swan, a Melbourne, Fla.-based Control4 dealer who recently started offering the CloseBy system. “It gives doctors the potential to see two-weeks worth (or more) of activity to determine if, when and how a patient’s health may be declining.” Swan, who is now doing business as Stay Close of Florida, plans to market and sell the system via the healthcare channel.
A base CloseBy system, which includes four door/window contacts, three motion sensors, one bed occupancy sensor, one chair occupancy sensor, one contact/temperature sensor, a Control4 controller, a CloseBy Network driver, one “contact me” button, one sensor bridge, the CloseBy Network web application and six months of monitoring access sells for around $3,000 (plus installation). Many of the sensors are manufactured by CloseBy Network’s parent company, Card Access, and additional features, like video monitoring, can be added by a CloseBy dealer.
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Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.