These are all the new Echo devices Amazon just announced
Mention the problem of obtrusive wearables to most tech enthusiasts and their minds may quickly turn to headgear for viewing virtual or augmented reality. But for some segments of the population, the stakes are higher than being cut off from an immersive first-person shooter. This includes elderly people at risk of a fall. My father, who was perfectly cogent and mobile at the age of 86, was one of those people. Earlier this year, about six weeks after falling in his home, he passed away from pneumonia. He opposed wearing any kind of alert bracelet that would have notified me or a monitoring center of his situation.
Things might have been different had he had access to TruSense. TruSense is an "aging in place" system of sensors that passively monitors the path of a person throughout the home during the day. The Cincinnati-based company uses many of the same core technologies as whole-home security systems such as the one recently released by Nest. However, instead of monitoring the activity of unwelcome strangers in your home, it is intended to monitor the activities of residents and ensure they are living within the norms of their routines. For example, a remote adult child can see a record that notes an elderly parent has gone into the kitchen for breakfast or if she has left the house for a doctor's appointment.
An earlier system based on this concept was Lively, a promising Kickstarter project that raised only 15,000 of its 100,000 goal. The company behind Lively was purchased soon after, but the acquiring company quickly moved away from such a product.
Like Lively, TruSense eschews cameras and instead offers a comprehensive set of sensors for unobtrusively monitoring the daily activities of independent but at-risk seniors. These include activity, contact, and even water sensors to detect flooding. But TruSense claims that it -- unlike Next, Vivint, or AT&T's DigitalLife effort -- isn't concerned with developing its own devices. Rather, it is open to a wide range of sensors as it focuses on the infrastructure software and services around the product. In addition to what might become a tedious log of ordinary daily activities, TruSense offers day-at-a-glance summaries. Its most sophisticated feature is performing analysis on input from multiple sensors to potentially predict warning signs.
TruSense isn't entirely passive. A modern connected system, it includes integration with Alexa via the included Echo Dot. This would have been particularly helpful for my dad, as he was unable to get to his phone after his fall. It is also a feature that, again, doesn't require anything to be worn. That said, TruSense can also extend its monitoring beyond the home via a GPS pendant, an OBDII car monitor and even a GPS SmartSole for one's shoe.
Read also: More artificial intelligence, fewer screens: the future of computing unfolds | Alexa, Cortana, Google, Siri user? Watch out for these inaudible command attacks | Amazon to open store-in-store concept inside some Kohl's locations
There's no question that TruSense collects a huge amount of information about a resident's life. The company claims its operations are HIPPA-compliant and the owner of the system (in the case of the resident) can control who gets to see what. Ultimately, this must be weighed against the risk of an unmonitored accident and the preferences of the person being monitored. Furthermore, much of its appeal is in avoiding what could ultimately be a speculative event. (To counter that somewhat, the company also says it looks for positive trends in behavior as well.) That said, it would have been a compelling option for my dad who was living proudly and independently without a major incident -- until there was one.
TruSense packages start at $199. The company estimates that a two-bedroom home would probably require $299 to $349 worth of gear. It charges $49 per month for its core monitoring service. The company offers a 60-day trial that refunds the service fee if service is not continued.