Wednesday 6 February 2019 9:01 am

DEBATE: Could the internet of things be the answer to the social care crisis?

Could the internet of things be the answer to the social care crisis?

Emanuele Angelidis, chief executive of IoT investor Breed Reply, says YES.

With more and more people forced to look after loved ones, the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) can help alleviate the social care issues raised by an ageing population.

For a start, we’ve already seen audio-activated AI assistants take off, like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. These could help remind people to take their medications at the right times, with smart inhalers for asthmatics and other connected devices ensuring that they take it properly.

IoT also enables real-time remote monitoring so carers can keep a close and careful eye on their loved ones, while they complete other tasks like shopping, or simply go about their day-to-day lives. Elsewhere, there is a real possibility that smart sensors – like the mobile health applications that have been popularised by the fitness industry – could be used to monitor people’s vital parameters.

Like anything else, IoT may not be able to immediately solve the UK’s social care crisis, but it can certainly help improve the current state of affairs.

Karen Dolva, founder of Norwegian robotics company No Isolation, says NO.

For too long, the primary motive behind technology has been efficiency. The recent excitement around the internet of things (IoT) and social care is a perfect example; using smart sensors to remotely monitor seniors’ health is of course important to their survival, but the elderly deserve much more.

People suffering from loneliness are 32 per cent more susceptible to strokes and 64 per cent more likely to develop dementia. Those hailing smart sensors as an all-encompassing solution are overlooking the importance of communication, and the corresponding happiness it brings. IoT allows for relatives to call up with accusatory questions like “why wasn’t the kettle boiled today?”, but do seniors actually want this? And have we even asked?

Smart gadgets are no substitute for warmth. These technologies will have a role in social care , but they cannot replace everyday communication. I would instead challenge the NHS, healthcare providers, and technology companies to prioritise happiness rather than just efficiency.


City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.