special olympics torch

Quality of Life and IoT for People with Disabilities

#IoT for Good, Video

So much of the Internet of Things is geared toward being cool.  Some of it can be useful and some of it can just be interesting.  But there are some devices out there that aim to improve people’s quality of life.  And today, as the Special Olympics World Games continue in Los Angeles, we’re going to look at a few devices that have people with special needs as their target audience.

The hard part about caring for people with special needs – whether they be mental or physical – is the diversity of the issues that need to be addressed.  Some people need help with mobility, others with cognitive function, still others with social interaction.  IoT is not the end-all of solutions but it does provide some help.

A very simple example that exists is in use by the Special Olympics itself.  In 2009, the Special Olympics instituted RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) badges to the athletes that included name, biographical information, and medical history.  These RFID badges can also be used to track the locations of athletes as they compete but most importantly, to provide medical staff with information should anything befall the athlete.

In regard to people with physical disabilities, one of the most encompassing concerns is interaction with physical objects.  Apps that provide the ability to control or use objects (e.g. Smart Home sensors, wifi-enabled cooking devices, or even smart buttons like Flic) can be used to not just enable positive user experience, but actually improve quality of life.

A very intriguing device is the ‘smart shoe’ or ‘smart insole.’  These walking devices provide the user to get direction while navigating a city by foot without having to look at your smart phone.  (This is especially geared toward the visually impaired.)  The device works by vibrating in different places to direct the user in one way or another.

This is a very short glance at what IoT can do to improve the quality of life of its users, in this case people with physical or mental disabilities.  As IoT devices continue to be developed, one hopes that more and more of them take into consideration the signification population of the world that needs things not to be simply cool, but useful as well.

Though this isn’t the Internet of Things, this is about a large company taking physical mobility into consideration when designing a new kind of shoe technology for a teenage with cerebral palsy: