On the 3rd-4th of June 2017, the inaugural IoT Cup was held in Melbourne. Representing iProspect Melbourne on the Dentsu Aegis team were Lana, Nathan and Divya.
This event, sponsored by the Victorian Government and KMPG along with other companies in the Internet of Things (IoT) space, challenged 30 teams to come up with an IoT-based solution to a big social problem.
In true hackathon style, the 24-hour sprint featured programmers, designers, code-junkies and other subject-matter experts collaborating intensively to create usable prototypes… or just something cool.
Participants were required to harness the digital connectivity between everyday objects, devices and databases (think fitness trackers, smart cars or home automation tech) to solve one of three challenges – while considering the technical, commercial and marketing aspects of their idea.
The three challenges were:
- Reducing food wastage
- Transport & disability access on public transport
- The health & wellbeing of the ageing population
The challenges hit home on many levels: firstly because of the relevance they hold to our lives and loved ones, and secondly because IoT devices are predicted to revolutionise the way we live. In fact, it’s estimated that there are already 8.4 billion connected devices.
During the event, tech mentors familiar with the space offered their assistance, challenging the contestants’ ideas and helping them strengthen the solutions they built.
Divya and Lana were teamed up with Anton, a mobile developer from Isobar, while Nathan joined Megan, a media buying expert from Carat, and William, a front-end developer from Isobar.
Both teams tackled the ageing population brief, but each approached the problem with very different ideas.
Here’s an account of the event from our first-time hackathoners.
How did you define your problem?
We looked for a problem that was affecting more and more Australians within the ageing population category, and decided to tackle problems relating to Alzheimer’s.
From here we refined our problem to solve one specific aspect within Alzheimer’s disease: Sundowning.
Sundowning is an issue that affects a subset of those with Alzheimer’s and can cause sufferers to have episodes of confusion and agitation when the sun sets. This is due to the fact there is a decrease in the amount of light available and an increase in the number of shadows in a house.
Divya & Lana:
After speaking to some of our contacts within the healthcare space, we identified social isolation to be a key problem that was affecting the ageing demographic.
A deeper look into the industry revealed three basic shortcomings: all existing solutions treat old people as patients, they only respond reactively after emergency hits, and they primarily cater only for physical health.
Our baby boomers, while still vibrant and young at heart, will soon become our aged – we wanted to create a solution that celebrated their lives and captured their stories, while still fitting into the overarching structure of an IoT solution.
2. How did you address the problem?
Our solution was to automate the detection, treatment and reporting of sundowning episodes. It involved two parts:
Part 1: Reduce the number of episodes those suffering from sundowning were having by utilising an automated response.
Part 2: Reduce the cost of care by only notifying healthcare professionals when the automation aspect failed to calm the patient.
Making this work required using motion and light level sensors from Aeotech. Raspberry Pi and smart light bulbs were used to provide the automated response so that when light levels fell, the light bulbs would automatically come on to replace the decreased natural light.
In order to determine if a sundowning patient was having an episode or not, the amount of motion in the house would also be monitored. A sharp increase in motion would indicate that the patient was having an episode.
IBM Watson was used to create a baseline of normality and identify whether the activity carried out by the patient was outside a normal range.
Lastly, automated SMS messaging software was used to send an alert to a registered healthcare professional when activity was outside the normal range, as this indicated that the automated light response had failed to prevent an episode.
Divya & Lana:
Social isolation is a key cause of mental health problems among the aged. We wanted to try to reduce their risk of becoming affected by social isolation, and to stimulate the positive flow-on effects this could have on patients’ overall wellbeing.
Using the hardware and software resources at hand, we devised a platform that would not only address the problem but also provide a benefit to health care providers’ resource planning.
Storybot is a voice-controlled home assistant designed for isolated seniors, powered by IoT architecture. Storybot’s key feature is its ability to engage its owner in daily conversation via pre-programmed prompts.
The assistant would play the role of a daily companion and talk to the owner, allowing them to be mentally stimulated while being able to record their wealth of life experience into the device.
Voice samples from conversations would be analysed for overall emotion and wellbeing levels using IBM Watson’s sentiment analysis tool, allowing us to gauge their daily mood.
The information is then transmitted to (1) the family members for reassurance, and (2) their nurses to help them gauge the need for one-on-one time, and so they can plan for resources optimally.
3. What information did you use to support your ideas?
Given the large-scale issue with dementia and the incidence rate of Alzheimer’s disease (it’s the most common form of dementia), we were able to gather a lot of information from government sites that listed the cost to the nation.
It’s estimated that between now and 2025, dementia will have cost the economy $18.7 billion. Of this, 20% of dementia patients are expected to suffer from sundowning, which works out to $3.74 billion by 2025 for this specific aspect of the disease.
If we could reduce the cost by 5% as a result of our automation solution, we could potentially save the Australian taxpayer as much as $187 million per year.
Divya & Lana:
We made good use of Dentsu research partners, such as Roy Morgan, to help define our audience and size up the market.
Government resources have a wealth of information regarding healthcare costs and average spend breakdown for our target age group – this was helpful when we needed to calculate our savings and returns once the product hits the market.
The mentors on site were also great sounding boards when it came to challenging our ideas and ensuring that we did not have any loopholes.
4. What advice would you have for a first-time hackathoner?
Define your problem as narrowly as possible, keep in mind the core benefit of your product, and try to ignore everything else. Also, have fun bringing the idea to life.
Try to understand the problems as much as possible beforehand and explore multiple similar avenues before settling.
Timing is everything. Always have a backup to your backup plan, and keep an open mind!