A device that links artificial intelligence (AI) to household devices — including kettles and electric showers — promises to alert family members or neighbors of elderly or vulnerable people when they do not follow their typical routine.

According to its team of developers — comprised of CENSIS, the University of Edinburgh, Mydex CIC, Carebuilder and Blackwood Homes and Care — the new AI-powered and internet of things (IoT)-enabled device is linked wirelessly to a smart meter or traditional electric meter in the home where it monitors the use of high-power electrical appliances such as microwaves and washing machines.

The team employed machine learning to determine what time these household appliances are typically used and to identify anomalies that might suggest the elderly or vulnerable person living there alone needs medical assistance.

For instance, if the vulnerable or elderly person typically makes tea at a set time each morning, the device will flag this as normal behavior. As such, if the kettle isn’t turned on by that time, an automated text message will be sent to the resident.

Because the system learns the activities of the resident, it will spot behaviors that seem erratic and subsequently issue the alert. If the alert is ignored by the resident, previously identified emergency contacts will receive a similar alert.

“These could be one-off events, like a fall, and with further research the system may be able to track changes over a longer time period that may indicate gradual, and more difficult to spot, health issues, such as the onset of a condition such as dementia. While there are other technologies related to monitoring activity, this is the first full service deployment that has been implemented through passively monitoring a property’s smart meter system. The device can also pick out each item being monitored, making it much more likely to spot any anomalies, and is barely noticeable for the householder,” the device’s developers explained.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com