News & Views – Applications of Research & Wellbeing TechnologyCaroline Laurenson
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
We enjoy sharing information about technology, wellbeing, housing and social care that we find interesting. For the past year, our social media was the main place that we published these articles and news stories. Our blog has mainly covered internal news and more recently our interviews with experts in the social care and wellbeing sectors.
Our mission is very much about educating and helping people learn more about the potential of smart home technologies. Making this information accessible and in a format that is easy to refer back to is also really important, hence this weekly round-up.
In this week’s instalment, I’ll provide insight into:
- The therapeutic effects of music.
- The power of voice technology to help people access health and wellbeing support.
- Cutting edge research into the impact of short and long-term loneliness on the brain.
- The use of voice technology in the fitness industry.
- Integration of smart home tech into the fabric of the home and improving the ability of the technology to self-configure itself.
- The financial and environmental benefits of living in a smart home.
Last Week’s News & Views
Health and Wellness
Music Boosts Mental Health
Music is a big part of my life. My dad was an amazing accordion and keyboard player and we used to go to care homes together to put on little performances when I was very young. I started to learn the cornet when I was 8 and then moved onto the trumpet once I was big enough to hold it!
But you don’t just have to play music to feel the benefits, you can listen to it and immerse yourself in the feelings it evokes, you can move your body and dance to the beat. There is some really amazing research and evidence supporting the use of music as a therapy.
I love when I hear stories of where music is being used to benefit people and this news story is a lovely example from a group in Cumbria to encourage families to discover the mental health and wellbeing benefits of music. You can check out their Cumbria Sings YouTube channel here.
Digital Health Companion to Support Cancer Patients
Voice is a really powerful way for people to access health and wellbeing support. We love to see examples of where this is being used to benefit people, particularly when someone is experiencing really significant health challenges.
An Italian digital health startup called PatchAi has created a Smart Health Companion (SHC) to support cancer patients. The app is essentially a conversational chatbot driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI). The AI will initiate discussions with the patient about their physical and mental health. The chatbot aids the patient in keeping track of and maintaining a record of his or her medication, diet and overall health. You can read more about this story here.
Potential Link Between Loneliness and Higher Risk of Developing Dementia
New research has been published in The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association which examines the link between loneliness and the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The team of researchers at Boston University School of Medicine specifically looked at the difference between persistent and transient loneliness and some of the genetic risk factors.
They observed that persistent loneliness was associated with a higher risk of developing conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s compared to transient loneliness. This is a very significant observation.
It will be interesting to see the follow-on work from this and how it potentially influences policies around social distancing and the development of support programs for people emerging from social isolation. You can read more about this story here.
Peleton Move into Voice
The Peloton stationary bike and associated virtual exercise classes are the company’s most well-known fitness services. The company has seen strong growth as people are preferring to workout from home but still want that personal trainer and group exercise experience. In the last few months, Peleton has acquired three other tech companies, including Aiqudo who specialise in voice assistants. This is a really interesting way to enhance the exercise experience and makes sense to allow people to interact hands-free during their workout sessions. I think this is going to be a growing trend where voice is integrated more into online experiences. You can read more about this story here.
Masonite Teams Up with Ring and Yale
Smart locks are not a very common feature in homes. Many people are nervous about access to their home and prefer a physical lock and key, which is strange when we are all happy nowadays to use remote locking in our cars. There’s also an element of just sticking with what we already have because it can be complicated and expensive to upgrade. This news from Masonite is great to see and brings two great smart home products together to modernise door security. The only slight concern with this is the longevity of these types of technologies in comparison to a door. A door is designed to last for decades whereas these smart technologies have a much shorter lifespan by comparison. So, it will be interesting to see how this is supported by the door manufacturers to ensure that people can maintain the technology without having to replace their whole door in the future. This will be particularly important as collaborations like this become more commonplace. You can read more about this story here.
Apple Smart Wall Unit
In recent years the smart home ecosystem has been working together more to help make interconnectivity between different brands easier for the consumer. Apple is leading the way in making the smart home set-up experience more intuitive and automated as much as possible. Their vision is to create a modular smart wall unit system that helps to configure all the smart devices within your home. You can read more here about a patent Apple filed for this back in March.
Financial Benefits of Smart Tech
Recent consumer research by Confused.com has revealed some interesting trends in the adoption of smart home technology. Close to three in four people in the UK own a smart home device, which equates to nearly 50 million people across the country. Since the first lockdown, more than half of the UK population (54%) has purchased a smart device for their home.
According to the report, consumers made an average annual saving of £318 by investing in smart devices such as heating and lighting. As well as helping in reducing the costs of running a home, this also represents a significant reduction in the carbon footprint of homes, something that consumers are becoming particularly aware of and motivated to do their bit for the planet.
The overarching theme of this week’s news has been about the integration of technology and the application of research. For the consumer, integrating different capabilities offers a better user experience and can simplify the buying process. However, I would say there are some downsides to this integration as it is likely to drive up costs (i.e. the consumer will have to pay for the convenience) as well as potential issues with obsolescence due to the tech needing upgraded before the item within the home, whether that is a door or an item of furniture, has reached the end of its useful life.
A topic that I am becoming increasingly more fascinated by is the way in which our brains work and how we can influence our wellbeing just through the power of our thoughts. It’s also amazing how much impact our environment has on our brains and the importance of keeping it stimulated through the company of others and listening to things like music and audiobooks. Music is absolutely my go-to if I need a pick me up so I will leave you with a handy link here to the super inspirational and uplifting latest video from Cumbria Sings performing Wish.
If you are catching up on news you can also read last week’s News and Views post on embracing lifelong learning here.
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