Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Wanderers Meeting 2005.7.5


Long time digital activist and alpha geek Ron Braithwaite was our guest speaker at Wanderers yesterday. He's moving to Canada shortly to begin work on a new kind of safety net for elders, staffed in large degree by disabled workers and backed by volunteers.

This net provides elders with human contact by telephone, plus raises exceptions when the installed sensors detect deviations from daily routines, e.g. when a medicine cabinet fails to open, or a stove gets left on. If the telecare provider can't handle the exception, e.g. the phone isn't answered, it gets passed to a higher level, e.g. to an on-scene emergency contact and/or 911.

Disabled workers will staff the call centers, either in offices or at home (some people want to "go to work"). A web browser interface will provide the daily contact list and color-coded warning flags. The software is already being field tested.

Given the average smart home generates a lot of data, the current design puts filtering and summarizing algorithms on a client appliance, thereby shielding the more centralized servers from a flood of routine information. Summary reports will help establish baselines so that long term trends might be monitored as well (e.g. increases or decreases in mobility, number of nightly trips to the bathroom and so on).

Also present to provide supplementary detail and background information, was Claude Goodman, founder of CareWheels and originator of this model. Ron and Claude first met when Ron was spearheading CollabTech for Free Geek. Claude remembered me from that venue.

We had a lot of lively discussion, focusing on possible big brother abuses, and on whether living alone was really the best option. Passions ran high, as personal histories were recounted. Ron and Claude held up well under interrogation and we ended up wishing them well in their adventures.

Given many in the private sector expect to generate future revenue from such On-Star-like home monitoring services, Ron feels it's important to get a working model established using open source software and business models. Otherwise, the more money-hungry will hide behind exclusionary regulations and patent claims, to make sure native human smarts and resourcefulness remain enslaved and controlled by self-serving "know better" elites.