Leveraging Radio Frequency for Home Care

By Dr. Danny Rittman, CTO of GBT Technologies

As a greater number of our loved ones are aging, many families are looking for ways to ensure the safety of older relatives who wish to maintain their independence. While a variety of devices out there have the capability to monitor seniors living on their own, the primary form—video surveillance—can often be invasive and demeaning. Luckily, there are better solutions with radio frequency technologies.

Take, for instance, radio frequency monitoring (RFM), a wireless technology that consists of a minimum of two devices that communicate with each other. As long as there is a transmitter and a receiver—which could be as simple as a wireless router and a computer—the integrated devices can passively monitor the presence or absence of a person in a room. 

These RFM devices work by monitoring radio waves as they’re transmitted from one end of a room and bounce off objects before they meet the receiver. That way, they can raise alarm bells if there’s been a conspicuous lack of rebounding waves for some time, meaning something—or someone—is missing from the room. 

For family members who are concerned about the safety of their older relatives, RFM technology provides simple and nonintrusive monitoring that can even automatically deploy emergency personnel if needed. 

But once implemented, what does RFM look like in practice?

Practical applications

The practical applications of RFM devices in-home care are many, especially when paired with other IoT devices: they can monitor movements in real-time, measure vital signs like heart rate and blood pressure, and even issue emergency alerts.

Through a litany of sensors and alarms, care providers can develop a network of radio frequency devices evenly distributed throughout a home. But most importantly, this approach involves only passive sensors. There’s no need for digital wristbands, tags, or suchlike. This approach also has potential applications in law enforcement, inconspicuously monitoring persons of interest under surveillance. 

But RFM is particularly beneficial for seniors with early onset dementia because family members can ensure their loved ones are following a regular routine and still performing daily tasks independently. With RFM, they can essentially watch seniors move in real time without actually watching them. 

Of course, there are also other forms of radio frequency location tracking that can be achieved through a wearable transmitter. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags can be attached around a wrist or neck or pinned to clothing, and the digital locator tags send location alerts to radio frequency receivers.

This can be a potentially useful tool for overburdened assisted-care facilities. RFID locator tags can assist in tracking a multitude of patients within a building by alerting staff when a patient isn’t in the right place at the correct time, for instance, if a resident doesn’t set off a sensor in the dining room at meal times. 

But for seniors at home, the less invasive the approach, the better, making RFM the more ideal solution for passively monitoring someone in a specific area.

Smart home integration

As radio frequency tech progresses, there are bound to be some hiccups in integration. In most cases, this is largely because the tech is being incorporated into houses that pre-date the device’s development. Put another way, these structures weren’t designed for any kind of smart tech. 

Nevertheless, health monitoring applications are being integrated into ill-equipped home environments. While walls are typically not a concern—studies have shown radio waves can penetrate walls without impacting location monitoring—an irregular floor layout may present challenges with monitoring movements or calibrating data. 

Simply put, it can be challenging, though not impossible, to install the RFM hardware needed to monitor movements efficiently throughout an entire home. Family members who are interested in using RFM tech to monitor their loved ones would be advised to first investigate whether there are practical difficulties regarding installation. 

In the future, houses will be designed and constructed with smart tech in mind. That means radiofrequency sensors could be integrated from the get-go—perhaps for houses specifically designed for the elderly—and not merely as an afterthought on an already completed structure. 

It’s about designing for the future, both on a personal and technical level. Smart houses would allow radio frequency monitoring to make us all a little safer in our golden years, while still protecting our privacy and dignity.

Dr. Danny Rittman, CTO of GBT Technologies, a solution crafted to enable the rollout of IoT (Internet of Things), global mesh networks, artificial intelligence and for applications relating to integrated circuit design, is an experienced technologist in the integrated circuit physical/backend and EDA (Electronic Design Automation) domains. In the past decade he led intelligent application development, IoT and mobile technologies, focusing on the delivery of advanced Hi Tech solutions.

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