[email protected]: Linux For In-Home, Assistive Elderly Health Care
Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware on 17 February 2014 at 09:50 PM EST. Add A Comment
[email protected] is an innovative communication device that's Linux-powered and allows families and loved ones to stay in touch with their elderly parents / family members as long as possible, even as they begin experiencing the early stages of Alzheimer's and other elderly conditions. In it's most basic software form, [email protected] is a remotely-managed Linux software platform that on the receiving-end can be used by the elderly and even those with early stages of Alzheimer's and other neuro-degenerative conditions.

As some Phoronix readers may recall, for the past decade another venture (besides Phoronix, etc) I've been involved with is Blue Heron Network and its principle product, [email protected], where I have served as the VP of Software Development. The company and its philosophy has all been about "Innovation Prolonging Independence."

For the description of [email protected] that Phoronix readers can understand, it comes down to a device placed with the elderly care receiver that's likely living alone or may be living within a nursing home and this Linux-based device is tailored around an experience maintained remotely by their loved ones and with having tiered-access can even have (restricted) data supplied by their doctor, in-home nurses, pharmacist, and other care providers. This data could range from pictures of the family to numerous daily reminders (with various response types offered) to sending down simplified recipes, calendars, and other information to help out the care receiver in their day-to-day activities. All of the data, photos, audio, etc, can be managed remotely, down to the colors of the user-interface and volume control.

With much of [email protected] dating back to the early 2000's, the original device was based around an industrial-grade point-of-sale system -- it did the job, offered reliable touch-screen support, and was durable enough to deal with whatever it would encounter by an elderly computer illiterate. We have revised our designs and evaluated tablet designs, but that was the main concept of a reliable touch-screen PC sitting in the living room or kitchen.

For those curious about [email protected], back in 2007 I wrote about some of the earlier work on Phoronix within [email protected]: Linux For Elderly Healthcare. There's also an interview I did back in 2008 with the former Linux Devices (now hosted on Linux Gizmos) about Linux-based touchpanel targets elderly homecare. Here's also some very basic videos about [email protected] from a few years back:

The reason for mentioning [email protected] now in 2014 is that it's still there, albeit very slow, though after ten years there is not any other competitor offering a similar solution. It's been slow the past few years in part due to associated regulatory/insurance/corporate requirements with producing a "health-care device", my time commitments having long been bottle-necked between Blue Heron Network and Phoronix / Phoronix Test Suite / Phoromatic / OpenBenchmarking.org / etc, capital requirements of a hardware-focused system, and initially there were some adoption challenges but over time more of the elderly have become more receptive to technology devices. There have been limited roll-outs of the Linux-based [email protected] in health centers and residential homes throughout the mid-west of the United States to great success in recent years.

Given the mentioned challenges and the stagnate work in the past few years while still not having any real competitors, we're currently contemplating our next steps forward. This could include open-sourcing the [email protected] software stack and other possible avenues. [email protected] last was updated to Ubuntu 8.04 "Hardy" for the old VIA hardware we were depending upon at the time and it's user-interface is still written in GTK2. Any modernization would require a significant rewrite of the front-end while the care-provider portion that's web-based is still in very good shape and is loaded to the brim in features. In terms of why we just haven't turned this into an iOS or Android application on the care-receiving side is that the lack of exposed APIs with [email protected] effectively taking over the device to control/implement a photo screensaver, remotely adjusting the screen brightness, hooking into the web-camera locally as a motion detector, dynamically controlling volume levels, etc. The elderly care receiver also shouldn't be able to "escape" the [email protected] application portion where they could be left in a troubled state; this is a fully-managed software stack rather than just being a modern mobile "app".

If anyone has any thoughts/suggestions on [email protected], would like to voice their support, or are interested in a Linux-based software health solution for the elderly that's fully-managed remotely, feel free to let us know via [email protected]. Learn more details about this solution at ResideAtHome.com and from the resources mentioned above.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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