Between Alex’s recent post about how devices and apps can help manage chronic conditions, Morgan’s testimony on the Internet of Things (IoT) last week, and how the wearables and apps I’ve been trying for We Wear It are changing my habits, I got to thinking about what a fully-connected life would be like.
It starts with something I’ve fantasized about for years: an IoT kitchen. I’m not just talking about connected appliances where you can start pre-heating your oven on your commute, or the fridge tells you when it needs its filter changed. I’m talking about combining those things with sensors on every single item in your kitchen.
Imagine eliminating these all-too-common scenarios from your life:
- You go to the grocery store to pick up ingredients for dinner, get home, and discover you’re out of one key ingredient you usually have on hand.
- Alternately, you’re at the store and pick up an ingredient you’re out of, get home, and discover you already have some – and now you’ve got enough chili powder to last three years. (Not that it’s happened to me.)
In my fantasy kitchen, everything from milk to spices to paper towels have sensors that communicate with a mobile device. An app gives me an at-a-glance inventory of what’s on hand, and automatically populates a grocery list based on what it knows I have AND what it knows I buy on a regular basis. Then it connects to a grocery delivery service and voila… Pantry restock arrives on my doorstep. No more carts with broken wheels, no more impulse buys, no more begging toddlers. Joy!
We’re partway there with intelligent personal assistants like Cortana, Siri, and Alexa. Let’s take this further and talk about how this can really change lives.
As Alex pointed out, there are several kinds of chronic diseases that are managed, in part, by diet and exercise and figuring out exactly what they can eat is a challenge. Having everything be connected means that care providers (doctors, nurses, nutritionists, therapists, etc.) can “look” at your kitchen, help make corrections to ingredients and shopping lists, give instant “eat this, don’t eat that” feedback, and associated apps can push recipes based on what you have and what your nutritional requirements are. Calorie counting becomes significantly easier, as does calculating calories in versus calories out. Connected food scales help with portions and determining nutritional value, and I predict that appliances like blenders will soon be able to assess calories and push that information to apps.
A large part of Morgan’s testimony was about the aging population in the U.S. and how we care for them. It reminded me of this article about Lively, a system that lets people live independently and live in their homes longer by setting up a system of sensors that gives children or caregivers unobtrusive information about their activity. Pill bottles, the refrigerator, the bathroom door… Everything can be remotely monitored (no cameras!) and alerts sent where there’s unusual activity or a change in routine. While it’s meant for peace-of-mind, it could be combined with other connected devices to create a robust system of care and monitoring for a rapidly increasing segment of the population.
Excited? Me too. Less time in grocery stores and doctor offices is good for everyone. But there’s a lot that needs to be done to make this a reality. In addition to proving the effectiveness of these connected technologies, innovators have to gain trust from customers—users and doctors—by keeping data private and secure. Doctors have to get compensated for using IoT solutions, and we need to have reliable, robust networks that can handle the increase in data traffic.