Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) offers a potentially flexible and low cost method of locating objects and tracking people within buildings. RFID systems generally require less infrastructure to be installed than other solutions but have their own limitations. As part of an assisted living system, RFID tools may be useful to locate lost objects, support blind and partially sighted people with daily living activities, and assist in the rehabilitation of adults with acquired brain injury. This chapter outlines the requirements and the role of RFID in assisting people in these three areas. The development of a prototype RFID home support tool is described and some of the issues and challenges raised are discussed. The system is designed to support assisted living for elderly and infirm people in a simple, usable and extensible way in particular for supporting the finding and identification of commonly used and lost objects such as spectacles. This approach can also be used to extend the tagged domain to commonly visited areas, and provide support for the analysis of common activities, and rehabilitation.
Assistive technology has been recognised as a vital component of care for the increasing numbers of elderly and chronically sick people in western countries who will require help to stay in their homes and carry out the activities of daily living(ADL) (UK Audit Commission, 2004). Therefore, there is a need for homes and the objects within them to become intelligent- that is to be able to actively assist their inhabitants. A further development has been the concept of ubiquitous nursing (u-nursing) (Honey et al., 2007). In this vision for 2020 the nurse is able to care for his or her patients assisted by an invisible ubiquitous web of sensors and information flows. Throughout the world there has been an increase in the occurrence of long term conditions (LTC), such as stroke, cancer, diabetes and heart disease, and hence an increase the importance of delivering effective care efficiently to sufferers. Both for quality of life issues and economic ones, care at home is becoming more important and is being studied intensively(Pare, Jaana, & Sicotte, 2007). The demographic shift of the population, from a generally young population, to that of one where the number of workers supporting each elderly person is much smaller, is becoming more visible, and many LTC’s are associated with increasing age. Data from Statistics New Zealand (Statistics New Zealand, 2005) based on the “medium” assumption of changes until 2051, estimates that by 2051 the percentage of the population aged 65 years and over will double from 12% to 26% .A similar scenario is happening in the UK where the number of people over the age of 65 has doubled since 1935 and today one fifth of the population is over 65 (Curry, Trejo Rinoco, & Wardle, 2002) Further, one in every five adults is reported to have some form of disability (Statistics New Zealand, 2006) with motor and cognitive disability being the most frequent. At the same time, the information flow between healthcare providers, patients and other stakeholders is being investigated as part of the Health Information Strategy action committee process, and being found to be wanting at present, and in need of improvement as part of an action area (Health Information Strategy Action Committee, 2007).
Thus, a pattern emerges whereby there is a convergence of requirements between the need to assist people to continue to live at home, an increasing need to treat chronic diseases and manage the information required for such processes, and to do so in the context of a holistic healthcare system. The vast majority of people needing such services are elderly although it should be emphasised that this need is not universal, and does not begin at any specific age.