How about an energy-efficient home?

How about an energy-efficient home?

How about an energy-efficient home?

InterHome is the first ‘intelligent’ home in the UK that can learn from its residents, take decisive action and send text alerts if it is being burgled or the door has been left unlocked. Now it can also monitor the health of its occupants.

“We developed it further with elderly people in mind so that the house can send alerts if the person has a fall or a stroke,” said Johann Siau, senior lecturer at the School of Engineering & Technology in the University of Hertfordshire, in southern England. His team of researchers has developed a prototype device that can be strapped to a person’s wrist and is equipped with various sensors to take readings of  body temperature and pulse. “This opens up a platform for us to add new types of technologies around assisted living,” he added.

InterHome incorporates modular custom-design units and draws on standard home automation systems that have been adapted to allow the residence to ‘learn’ and ‘adapt’ to its users’ lifestyles. The prototype of the home, which has been developed in a doll’s house, integrates embedded devices with home automation controllers to provide convenience and security to its inhabitants and also enables them to reduce energy. Making homes as energy-efficient as possible should reduce carbon and greenhouse emissions, and save on fuel bills.

An intuitive touch-screen user control panel in InterHome also allows the residence to be monitored and controlled by using web browsers, smart phones and any mobile phone that can send short texts. “InterHome improves on its competitors by being modular, adaptable and able to ‘learn’ our routines,” said Johann Siau. “The technology enables the system to learn rapidly when we need the lights on, or whether we are at home or at work, and how the house needs to be at certain times of the day.  If we forget to lock the front door or turn off the lights, it can text us and our response can re-programme the system.”

Through this approach, InterHome can eliminate wasted energy within UK homes and make a difference to CO2 emission statistics when installed in a sufficient number of homes.  The prototype is being tried out by industry, and the team led by Johann Siau is working with the U.K.’s Building Research Establishment, where the InterHome system is being installed in two show homes on its innovative park.

Device for disabled and elderly people

Meanwhile, a new hand-held device being developed in the UK  is expected to help disabled and elderly people to navigate around town and city centres more easily.  Kingston University’s Nigel Walford, a professor of  applied  geographical information systems, says his device would allow people with mobility problems to make their way much more easily around an unfamiliar place by alerting them to hazards such as steep slopes, stairs, physical obstructions and poorly lit streets.

After two years in development, Professor Walford said he was ready to produce a prototype that he hoped would attract the interest of industry backers.  Rather than working as a satellite navigation device that gives directions to and from a specific location, the new device would provide a survey of a town or city, highlighting areas that might cause difficulties to someone with disabilities, to older people, or to anyone who might want to avoid streets that were difficult to navigate.  It could also help users find services such as public toilets or children’s play areas. “We are exploring the feasibility of a mobile hand-held computer tool that would make it easier to navigate around town and city centres,” said Professor Walford.  “It would provide older people, in particular, with greater independence by allowing them to widen their horizons and travel to unfamiliar places without having to worry about how to get around.”

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