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Smart Healthcare: New invention integrated with Bluetooth positioning technology and a local religious design helps Taiwan’s elderly with dementia find their way home

PRESS RELEASE FROM TAIWAN SMART CITY DEVELOPMENT PROJECT OFFICE OF INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT BUREAU, M.O.E.A.
May 28, 2021

Population aging increases the prevalence of dementia among Taiwan’s elderly who are at a high risk of getting lost or going missing

The world is facing the population aging problem which also increases the prevalence of dementia among the elderly. This also brings global attention to the care for the elderly with dementia and Taiwan makes no exception. The statistics show over 280,000 of Taiwan’s elderly aged 65 and above have dementia, indicating one out of 13 elderly people suffering from such disease. Dementia sufferers are gradually losing their sense of orientation and judgment. Eventually, they are having trouble finding their way home. Therefore, dementia has become one of the biggest causes of the disappearance of the elderly. According to the statistics of Taiwan’s National Police Agency (NPA), Taiwan has about 25,000 missing persons each year. Among them, the proportion of the missing elderly aged 65 or over is increasing every year. To prevent the elderly from going missing, family members have to bear financial burdens to care for someone with dementia in the family. On top of that, the psychological pressure on family members can be enormous.

Many people worry about their older family members will get lost or go missing when they go out by themselves. Therefore, they often restrict the elderly from going out. However, staying home for a long time will affect both physical and mental health of the elderly, making them vulnerable to chronic diseases and depression.

The Taiwan government has been paying attention to long-term care services such as dementia. With Taiwan’s strengths in IT technology, the government aims to build a safe and friendly environment for the elderly to live in.

“Smart City Taiwan” Project Provides Proven Track Record Solutions

The “Smart City Taiwan” Project initiated by the IDB (Industrial Development Bureau) of Taiwan’s MoEA (Ministry of Economic Affairs) is a project to promote smart city development in Taiwan with emerging technologies. In addition, it helps local companies solve issues with proven track-record solutions. The project consists of six applications built around smart cities: "healthcare", "governance", "tourism and retail", "agriculture", and ", "education" and "transportation."

With the “Smart City Taiwan” project, the central and local governments have been able to join forces with the industry, taking advantage of Taiwan’s strengths in the high-tech industry. The Project allows companies to field-test their innovative applications in several cities and counties, in an attempt to address their pain points. At the same time, by demonstrating our achievements over the years, Taiwan would like to share the message “Taiwan can help” to the world while playing our role as a world’s citizen and a major force in the global economy. To date, the Project has fostered more than 220 innovative services from about 300 local companies and has benefited over 8.54 million citizens.

Bluetooth Positioning integrated with Taiwan’s religious lucky charm design makes new invention elderly-friendly

When it comes to caring for someone with dementia, the IDB has facilitated a new startup, called OPEN-LiFE, which leverages Bluetooth positioning technology to develop the so-called PingAmulet D+ card. The card can prevent the elderly from getting lost or going missing. At the same time, the IDB also co-works with local governments like Pingtung county government to set up a community safety net and a trial field in the Xishi village for the elderly.

The PingAmulet D+ card uses low-power Bluetooth positioning technology and has a battery life of 9-12 months so no frequent charging is required. The one-touch SOS emergency button can help the elderly get assistance when they feel lost or in an emergency.

Most importantly, to reduce the elderly’s unpleasant feelings of being spied on when wearing PingAmulet D+ card, the invention looks like a lucky charm that they can get from local temples. With this elderly-friendly design, they are more willing to wear it for a long time for their own safety.

By deploying beacon sensors, the village has succeeded in constructing an electronics community safety net, which can real-time monitor the whereabouts of the elderly. When an elderly person accidentally leaves the safe zone, the system will automatically send an alarm to his/her family members, record the last place of the appearance, and help family members and police officers quickly locate the area. On average, the system has helped reduce the search time by about one-third. The Xishi village currently has 52% of the elderly aged 60 and above, and over 83% of the elderly with dementia have used the PingAmulet D+ card’s positioning service and more than 90% of them are satisfied with the service.

Various product designs helps expand user coverage

OPEN-LiFE continues to focus on the development of new product designs, with an aim to expand user coverage and create service applications. It can ensure all age groups from the elderly to students and patients can live in a safe and secure social environment. For example, the product design is in various forms such as keyrings and bracelets. The positioning service has also been introduced to schools to ensure the safety of students. They are also available for people under COVID-19 home quarantine to help the government real-time monitor the whereabouts of quarantined persons. In the future, the company plans to add physiological measurements to the invention to measure a person’s physical activity.

With the support of the “Smart City Taiwan” project, the positioning service for the elderly has been expanding coverage from Xishi village of Pingtung County (Southern Taiwan) to other Taiwan’s cities and counties such as Yunlin, Taitung, and Taipei and has been shipping overseas to Singapore, Hong Kong, and other Southeast Asian countries.

The governments and medical institutions of these Asian countries have purchased OPEN-LiFE’s  positioning bracelets and cards to real-time monitor home quarantine persons, hospital patients, and medical equipment at hospitals.