Smart home: a life-changing experience

IoT brings back some degrees of independence to those who require assistance in everyday life

By Claire Marchand

While recent developments in home automation are bound to make anyone’s life easier, there are certain categories of the population for which it may be a life-changing experience: elderly and/or disabled people have very specific accessibility needs and can benefit fully from the technological advances associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) and the smart home.

smart home for active assisted living (AAL) Technological advances offer independence to people who would otherwise require assistance in their homes (Photo: Decompression Stop blog)

New solutions to age-old problems

For years, accessibility for the disabled or the elderly could be summed up in a few adjustments such as stair lifts or easy-access baths and showers. Not much more. Modern technology brings forward an – almost – infinite number of solutions that allow them to live as independent a life as possible in their own home. 

While most able-bodied people switch lights on or off without thinking – the gesture is such a deeply ingrained habit – for many others the task, which may have seemed unsurmountable until recently, is now made easier by remote-controlled lightbulbs, WiFi-connected controllers that can be operated from smartphone apps or even voice-controlled light switches. 

From automatic doors to cupboards and cabinets fitted on electric tracks that slide up and down and can be reached by those in wheelchairs, from automatic faucets, soap dispensers and hand dryers to robot vacuum cleaners, from window, blind and curtain controllers to motion-detection sensors, emergency phone diallers and panic buttons, technological advances can provide precious assistance and independence to people who otherwise would have to rely on others for help in their daily routines. 

Benefits for all involved

Those are only a few examples of what can be done to assist elderly, disabled or handicapped people in solving accessibility problems. 

While a smart environment offers elderly and disabled citizens tremendous assistance in living an independent life at home, it also helps lighten the burden put on families or carers by providing 24-hour non-invasive home monitoring. For instance, if no movement has been detected for a certain amount of time, an alarm can be triggered to alert the family of carer that something is amiss. 

Most of the time, making a home smart doesn’t require a complete refurbishment. Smart home technology has become more accessible and many solutions involving the retrofitting of existing equipment and devices are available at affordable prices. 

High-quality electronics a must

The common denominator behind smart homes and devices, the IoT in general, is the electronics inside. 

Sensors, connectors, resistors, capacitors, semiconductors, diodes, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), organic LEDs (OLEDs), microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS) are just some of the numerous components that are widely used in all kinds of electronic equipment and devices.

To work smoothly, and especially when elderly or disabled people are concerned, these smart objects and devices have to have high-quality electronics inside. One faulty component can have disastrous effects. 

IECQ ensures product safety and reliability

Electronic component manufacturers and suppliers have a very powerful tool at their disposal to ensure that their products are safe, reliable and meet the strictest requirements: IECQ, the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components. 

As a worldwide approval and certification system covering the supply of electronic components, assemblies and associated materials and processes, IECQ tests and certifies components using quality assessment specifications based on IEC International Standards. 

In addition, there are a multitude of related materials and processes that are covered by the IECQ Schemes. IECQ certificates are used worldwide as a tool to monitor and control the manufacturing supply chain, thus helping to reduce costs and time to market, and eliminating the need for multiple re-assessments of suppliers. 

Covering a wide range of electronic components

The numerous types of electronic component covered by IECQ are used in all kinds of technologies, from the smallest device to the most complex piece of equipment. At present, there are eight families of components certified by IECQ:

  • Active components, including integrated circuits
  • Electromagnetic components
  • Electromechanical components
  • Electro-optic components
  • Hybrid integrated circuits
  • Passive components
  • Printed wiring boards
  • Wire, cables and connectors
  • Assemblies
  • Component Modules
  • Ancillary items e.g. insulator/shielding materials, heat transfer compounds and materials etc.
  • Electronic part enclosures and housing materials 

IECQ operates industry specific Certification Schemes:

  • IECQ AP (Approved Process)
  •    IECQ AP-CAP (Counterfeit Avoidance Programme)
  • IECQ AC (Approved Component)
  •    IECQ AC-TC (Technology Certification)
  •    IECQ AC-AQP (Automotive Qualification Programme)
  •    IECQ Scheme for LED Lighting (LED components, assemblies and systems)
  • IECQ Avionics
  • IECQ HSPM (Hazardous Substances Process Management)
  • IECQ ITL (Independent Testing Laboratory) 

IECQ plays a major role in ensuring that your home is smart and also that all connected devices work safely and reliably. 

More information: www.iecq.org

Gallery
smart home for active assisted living (AAL) Technological advances offer independence to people who would otherwise require assistance in their homes (Photo: Decompression Stop blog)
emergency alert system for AAL Emergency alert systems instantly connect people who need assistance to a monitoring centre that will in turn set up a connexion with a caregiver or dispatch emergency services (Photo: MyTrex Inc.)
robot vacuum cleaner Even the most mundane tasks, such as vacuum cleaning, can be performed by robots (Photo: gizmodo.com)