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AI-Powered Smart Socks May Help Those With Dementia Age In Place

9 months, 3 weeks ago

6064  0
Posted on Aug 10, 2023, 6 p.m.

Image Caption: SmartSocks in use at the Living Lab Imperial College London. Image Credit: Imperial College London

Typically, those with dementia need assistance as the disease progresses, which can ultimately lead to moving to an assisted living facility. Researchers from the University of Exeter have designed artificial intelligence-powered smart socks that could help those with dementia to remain in their homes and age in place.

According to the researchers, the SmartSocks track the heart rate, sweat levels, and motion of those wearing them, which could help caregivers to identify when vulnerable people are in distress. These SmartSock look like real socks, free from the stress and discomfort of bulky monitors that people would rather avoid, they are even machine washable. These SmartSocks are reported to not require charging as they also check the cognitive status of the person wearing them which most current devices are not able to do. 

The SmartSocks™ incorporate research innovations developed in Bristol, UK, and Osaka, Japan. Trials of the SmartSock are set to launch soon within homes and nursing facilities. This intervention innovation was a collaboration between the researchers at the University of Exeter and Mibotix, and they were invented by Dr. Zeke Steer who is the Chief Executive Officer of the startup who came up with the idea after witnessing his great-grandmother battle dementia. 

“I came up with the idea for SmartSocks while volunteering in a dementia care home. The current product is the result of extensive research, consultation, and development,” Dr. Steer says. “So far SmartSocks have been incredibly well-received in care settings, and I’m excited to see what impact our products can have in providing early alerts of agitation and falls, enabling care home staff to take early intervention,” the inventor continues.”

“The foot is actually a great place to collect data about stress, and socks are a familiar piece of clothing that people wear every day, our research shows that socks can accurately recognize signs of stress – which could really help not just those with dementia, but their carers too,” adds Steer.

Currently, a study is underway at the UK Dementia Research Institute Care Research & Technology Center at the Imperial College London, which was designed to create a SmartHome service called Minder which helps to allow dementia patients to remain living in their homes.

Another trial is already in the works involving 15 dementia patients living in their homes who would wear the SmartSocks, while caregiving facilities in the UK are already testing out the devices in homes which is being run by Southern Healthcare. 

“I think the idea of SmartSocks™ is an excellent way forward to help detect when a person is starting to feel anxious or fearful,” says Margot Whittaker, Director of Nursing and Compliance at Southern Healthcare Group.

“Wearable devices are fast becoming an important way of monitoring health and activity,” says Sarah Daniels, Health and Social Care Lead at the UK DRI Care Research & Technology Center at Imperial College London, who says that the technology is an “exciting” development in an increasingly important sector. “At our center, we have been trialing a range of wristbands and watches. However, these devices present a number of challenges for older adults and people affected by dementia.”

“They don’t hold charge for long; people often remove and subsequently misplace them. We have also found that those who like to wear a watch, prefer to wear their own and that those with more fragile skin, are at risk of pressure areas and skin irritation,” says Daniels. “SmartSocks offer a new and promising alternative which could avoid many of these issues,” Daniels adds.

“There is a need for a wearable device that is acceptable to users, that provides continuous physiological data, and helps identify data signals in the environment as belonging to the individual…smart socks have the potential to be an elegant solution to this need,” said Matthew Harrison, Senior Designer, UK Dementia Research Institute Care Research & Technology Centre at Imperial College London.

“By taking the form of an everyday item, these smart socks are less stigmatising and invasive than current products and will be easier to use in care settings, helping carers to feel less overwhelmed with multiple tasks,” said Natasha Howard-Murray, Senior Innovator, Alzheimer’s Society.

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.

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Image Caption: SmartSocks in use at the Living Lab Imperial College London. Image Credit: Imperial College London

Milbotix - Revolutionising Dementia Care with SmartSocks

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