Supporting Independent Living

The evolution of home automation and how a smarter home can help change a person’s life.

Most people are familiar with smart technology, through their mobile phones. Although most of us probably think of a smartphone as a modern device, and few of us will realise that the phrase “smartphone” was first used over 20 years ago, with the release of the Ericsson GS88 smartphone.

The term didn’t really enter popular language though until a decade later in 2007 when Steve Jobs’ introduced the iPhone – a new breed of technology, radically different to it’s predecessors and far closer to a mobile computer than a mobile phone: a product worthy of the “smart” title.

Since then our digital and connected worlds have radically changed and the world is full of smart devices, from smartphones and watches, to smart clothing, keys and fitness aids.

The concept of home automation has been around for decades, with ideas and concepts emerging out of popular science fiction from automatic doors and handheld devices to advanced voice controlled computers. One key driver behind the smart technology market has been assistive technology and for people living with disabilities the possibilities that a smart home presents could be life changing.

Unfortunately, like all specialist areas, the cost of entry into this market has been high and has excluded those who would benefit most from the technology from accessing it. In the last five years more affordable technology and increased reliability of wireless networking has revolutionised the home automation industry, making the concept of a smart home an achievable reality for many.

Most solutions available today consist of a number of connected devices, controlled using a series of apps or physical switches, relying on the user to provide input, a process often difficult for those with disabilities. Although often called smarthomes, these connected homes do not yet provide the step change in the overall capability of a home: lights still require pushing a “switch” to turn on even if the switch is in an app.

In order to realise the full potential of a SMART home new systems must provide a significant improvement on the functionality of a home. The smarter home must not only adapt to new technologies but also apply intelligence to the control of a house: lights which only come on when you are in a dark room, music which follows you around and even a house which can automatically determine if the occupants require assistance and react accordingly. Innovations and cost reductions in technology are combining to help create smarthomes worthy of the title.

There are some things that it is perhaps easy to take for granted as basic given rights when you’ve always had them. The right to enjoy your freedom, the right to independence and to choice, the right to dignity… amongst others. For people living with disabilities, these seemingly fundamental rights can be challenged daily, and we see smart technology within the home being the best way to correct this imbalance.

It could be as simple as automatically turning on electric lights for somebody who is unable to manually operate a switch, to something as complicated as motion sensors which learn your usual behaviours and patterns of movement within the home and trigger an alert if you are within the home but something seems amiss - perhaps indicating that you’re in difficulty.

It could be a basic reassurance for somebody who struggles with memory to check that sockets and appliances are turned off at home whilst on the move, or pre-programmed environmental settings such as lighting levels and temperature controls to reduce discomfort for a person experiencing a migraine headache.

No two people are the same but the potential applications of this technology within a home are almost endless. From our work with people with disabilities we understand that a major source of frustration can be that even supportive devices and adaptations are usually one size fits few.

Two people with the same diagnosis on paper, may have very different experiences and needs in the real world, and particularly in the case of complex disabilities, some of these needs can be difficult to reconcile with each other. Often, a product designed to assist with one set of challenges, can directly worsen or create new ones. The beauty of the smart home is that it can be 100% bespoke and tailored to suit you and your needs, as well as wants, and will continue to evolve alongside your lifestyle.

Launched in 2017 the Macro Level Smarthome is one of the first systems to combine intelligent algorithms with a connected home in order to offer our customers a truly Smarter Home and support them in gaining their independence.