Assistive Technologies in Smart Homes

Assistive Technologies in Smart Homes

Tatsuya Yamazaki (National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, Japan)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-857-5.ch009


This book chapter provides a review of the assistive technologies deployed in smart spaces with a variety of smart home or house examples. In the first place, home networking technologies and sensing technologies are surveyed as fundamental technologies to support smart environment. After reviewing representative smart home projects from across the world, concrete assistive services related with the fundamental technologies in smart environment are deployed not only for the elderly and handicapped but for people in ordinary families as well. Adaptability is one of the key essences in the assistive technologies in smart environment and, for this purpose, human-ware studies including man-machine interfaces, ergonomics and gerontology are needed to be linked with the hardware specific fundamental technologies.
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It is an old saying that ‘a house becomes a home over time’. From the word ‘house’, one may imagine only a building. On the other hand, one is likely to feel comfortable and warm at the mention of the word ‘home’—a place that residents make livable. A home is formalized by the harmonization of its residents, environments, household appliances, etc. and is then able to adapt to the lifestyles of its residents. How can we make our homes more adaptable to our lifestyles? Owing to the introduction of ICT (Information and Communication Technology), home functions such as networking, sensing and appliances have become smarter and home adaptability, as a result, has increased greatly. Today, a smart home can be defined as a dwelling that incorporates a communications network which connects the key electrical appliances, sensors and services, and allows them to be remotely controlled, monitored or accessed. Such smart homes adapt to their residents autonomously and assist readily in their ways of living, particularly in the case of the handicapped or elderly people. In addition, from the term ‘smart’, one may expect smart homes to possess the ability to think, predict and take decisions. Such behaviour must be supported by capabilities in the fields of adaptation, communication, pattern recognition and so on.

Speaking of assistive technologies in smart homes, both individual technologies (as outlined above) and total service provisioning technology consisting of individual technologies may be involved. As a result, the area covered by the field of assistive technologies for smart homes is indeed very wide. This chapter samples certain foundational technologies that are related to assistive technologies; further, we overview the smart home research and development area.

The remainder of this chapter is organized as follows. With regard to foundational technologies in smart homes, “Overview” describes home networking technologies while “Sensing Technologies” focuses on sensor technologies. In “Smart Homes in the World”, I present representative smart home or house projects from across the world. I pick up several test beds from North America, Europe and Asia and test them in real situations. “Assistive Services in Smart Homes” describes a few examples of assistive technologies as integrated services. Finally, “Conclusion” concludes this chapter.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Wearable sensing: To collect necessary data through sensors worn by users. Since wearable sensors are in contact with the user, more accurate biometric data can be collected by wearable sensing than by ubiquitous sensing. On the other hand, wearable sensors need to be small, light and low-power-driven.

Context-aware services: Services which coordinated and provided properly according to the user context, that is for example characteristic, status and situation. It is considered that context-aware services are included or overlapped by assistive services. Although essential contextual information differs from each service, information on place, time and identification is considered as fundamental contextual information.

Ubiquitous sensing: To collect necessary data through sensors attached or embedded in the environment ubiquitously. Although the variation of sensors differs from the targeted service or application, examples are cameras or microphones that may be used for purposes of surveillance and log recording.

Assistive services: In general, services that support human activities, usually in a daily life. In the context of smart homes, examples of assistive services are accident avoidance service, movement assist service, health care service, etc.

ITU-T J.190: A home network architecture standardized in ITU-T (International Telecommunication Union-Telecommunication). The title is “Architecture of MediaHomeNet that supports cable-based services”. It was standardized in July, 2002 in the first place and revised in October, 2007. The home network was modelled as combination of IP-based and non-IP-based domains and a fundamental architecture of home network was defined.

Smart Homes: Conceptually homes that assist the residents, usually by means of ICT (Information and Communication Technology). From the viewpoint of ICT, fundamental components of smart homes are networking and sensing technologies. Smart homes automatically or autonomously provide services to make the residential life more comfortable, securer or more economical. The residents who need an assistive service are wide-ranging. Therefore universal interfaces for human-machine interaction are desired to be equipped for smart homes.

Ubiquitous Home: A smart home built by NICT (National Institute of Information and Communications Technology), a Japanese research institute. Ubiquitous Home is located inside the building of NICT and perfectly emulates a residential apartment. Ubiquitous Home is equipped with various types of sensors, network infrastructures and networked appliances. Real-life experiments were conducted and a part of collected data are open to be shared for an academic purpose.

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