Smart Aides for the Care Sector

11.10.2022 by Annalena Rauen
Senior citizen with smartwatch and granddaughter in a garden


 

Smart products for the care sector have great potential to support patients and relieve caregivers. This can be fully developed with a suitable connection on the Internet of Things.

Overtime and double shifts, too much bureaucracy and low pay – these are just some of the reasons for nurses to leave their profession. The rate of dropouts further exacerbates the shortage of skilled workers in the healthcare sector. The Hans Böckler Foundation therefore asked former and part-time caregivers under what circumstances they would return to their profession. Among the motivations cited by those surveyed were staffing levels that are actually aligned with the needs of people in need of care, better pay, reliable working hours, simplified documentation, and more time to care for patients. Digital solutions such as connected drinking cups, emergency call watches and implants can help here.

Smart Connected Products

The Internet of Things (IoT) turns conventional products into intelligent, connected products by means of sensors, data transmission technology and analytics. In the concept of Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) for seniors, patients, or people with disabilities, for example, a networked dispenser detects whether a medication is being taken regularly; activity trackers check whether the wearer is following the recommendations of doctors and physiotherapists; a networked scale or blood pressure monitor gives the doctor remote information about the patient's state of health. In the case of mobile products, the mobile network is particularly suitable for transmitting the measurement data thanks to its reliability, worldwide distribution, and security standards.

These smart connected products also include the SmartCup by LAQA, a smart drinking cup for care facilities. Because we drink too little, especially in advanced age. Yet our bodies require a regular water intake for various reasons: to regulate body temperature, to transport nutrients and oxygen in the blood, or to eliminate toxins. That is why the German Nutrition Society (DGE) recommends a daily intake of at least 1.5 liters of liquid. Yet not everybody achieves this target, be it because they believe they don’t have the time, they forget it, or they simply don’t feel thirsty.

Why Drinking Regularly is so Important

Possible consequences of dehydration are headaches, giddiness, disorientation, or concentration difficulties up to kidney insufficiency, urinary tract infections, and joint inflammations. Symptoms can already occur in the event of a one- to two-percent loss of water in the body. A British study has shown that fitness to drive is affected as negatively by mild dehydration as by a blood alcohol level of 0.8 parts per thousand.

Yet according to a Forsa survey commissioned by a German health insurer, the Techniker Krankenkasse (TK), 27 percent of men and 39 percent of women don’t drink enough. That can become a problem, especially for older people, because both the percentage of water in their bodies and their sense of thirst decline with age. Twenty-seven percent of respondents aged over 60 said they only drank anything when they felt thirsty. By then it is too late; dehydration and its consequences will often have occurred already.

A Challenge for Care Workers

Care workers in facilities such as hospitals and care homes face a special challenge. Depending on the level of care required, they must keep a daily record of how much their patients drink. That not only takes time (and medical personnel in outpatient and inpatient care spend on average more than 30 percent of their working time on administrative activities); keeping written records is also highly error-prone. Care workers must also constantly remind patients to drink regularly.

The Connected Drinking Cup

To cope with this challenge LAQA, a startup based in Sauerlach near Munich, has developed a connected drinking cup. Its SmartCup has built-in sensors that measure the user’s drinking behavior and uses light, sound, or vibration to remind the user to drink regularly and enough. The sensor technology also recognizes whether the patient has drunk anything and how much and whether there has been any spillage because a drinking cup has tipped over.

Hydration Management with LAQA

LAQA's SmartCup reminds users to take in enough fluids. An automated hydration log reduces the burden on caregivers. Benefits:
 

  • Prevention of dehydration
  • Increased well-being for seniors
  • Fully automated creation of a drinking protocol
  • Relief of the caregiver
  • Increased efficiency of care work


 

In order to connect the SmartCup reliably, Deutsche Telekom assisted LAQA with its TechBoost startup program and the IoT Solution Optimizer in choosing the right wireless technology for the mobile network and the hardware. A wireless module in the base of the cup sends the sensor data encrypted and data-protection-compliant via the Telekom network and the energy-saving NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) standard to the Open Telekom Cloud for documentation and evaluation. Software compares the amount drunk and the daily amount recommended for the individual patient and calculates in real time when next to remind the patient to drink something. The amount drunk is transferred via an interface (API) automatically to the patient’s records and can be accessed on an online portal.

Wellbeing for Patients, Relief for Care Workers

The connected drinking cup benefits all concerned. Care patients are reminded automatically and reliably to take a drink and no longer run the risk of dehydrating. Regular liquid intake promotes their general state of health. Caregivers have an overview of the drinking status of care recipients at all times. They are also notified without delay when patients have not drunk anything for too long or have spilled their drink. Care personnel receive a digital overview of their patients’ drinking behavior, no longer need to keep records and can devote the time saved to individual care.

In the future, LAQA SmartCups are also to be able to record the shaking of Parkinson’s patients’ hands. Data on drinking behavior, the manufacturer claims, may also help to improve the health of sufferers from incontinence or obesity. The connectivity that Telekom provides enables LAQA to offer its customers one new service after another.

Connected Cardiac Pacemakers

Pacemakers and defibrillators made by the Berlin-based medical technology specialist BIOTRONIK have a built-in radio chip that regularly relays the condition of the patient and of the implant to a small IoT box. The device includes a wireless module and an IoT connectivity solution with a Telekom SIM card and relays data at night via the cellular network to a cloud platform. Physicians can access their patients’ data online. If the IoT box identifies irregularities in the patient’s vital data or the functionality of the implant the attending physician is notified immediately.


 

Smart Personal Safety Alarm Watches, Accessible Everywhere

Reliable mobile connectivity can also help in acute emergencies. A Swiss company, Smartwatcher Technologies, has developed a personal safety alarm watch for senior citizens and people in need of care. Press a button and the watch starts an alarm call to pre-registered contacts such as family members and carers or, optionally, to an emergency call center. Contacts can immediately answer the call and speak to the wearer via the watch’s loudspeaker and microphone. As long as the call is active, each contact person can check the geolocation of the device in the optional and free Smartwatcher app.


 

“Working with Telekom allows us to offer customers the highest level of excellence when it comes to mobile network connectivity. Wearers can rely on their personal safety alarm watch to establish a secure voice connection whenever they need help. A wonderful feeling, making it easier to live more confidently and independently.”

– Jill Allemang, CEO of Smartwatcher Technologies


 

To ensure that the personal safety alarm watch has cell phone reception when at home or out and about Smartwatcher Technologies prioritized in its quest for a provider the utmost in reliable network coverage. Telekom provides the smartwatches with eSIMs. The Telekom IoT network ensures secure and reliable voice and data transmission. Traveling abroad? Telekom has roaming agreements with network providers all over Europe.      

Connected drinking cups, pacemakers or personal safety alarm watches are just three examples of how the Internet of Things can make new solutions possible and make healthcare products safer and more efficient.


 

New Opportunities with Connected Products


New Opportunities with Connected Products

Smart connected products provide insights into customer requirements, make innovative services possible and open up new revenue streams. Learn how digital innovations can tap into unimagined opportunities for your business.

To Smart Connected Products

Smart connected products provide insights into customer requirements, make innovative services possible and open up new revenue streams. Learn how digital innovations can tap into unimagined opportunities for your business.

To Smart Connected Products

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Annalena Rauen
Annalena Rauen

Marketing Managerin IoT

Back in 2016, Anna worked on IoT topics at Deutsche Telekom for the first time. Since then, she has been supporting customer best practices in a wide range of industries – always focusing on the benefits that the Internet of Things can provide. Her IoT blogposts describe real use cases and the value these innovations add to market players, their business models, and even entire industries.