22nd Mar 2018


5G: What's in it for those over 65

  • The Bologna project has demonstrated, wireless technology combined with smart devices can be the key to more independent lifestyles for elderly people. (Photo: Huawei)

Elderly people using wireless technology to stay safe and independent – here is what this could look like: tele-monitoring and tele-assistance systems linking the homes of elderly people with a local control station to accompany them at any moment of the day and night.

Information being collected by sensors and transmitted over a wireless network to an alert system helping to prevent events such as gas, smoke and water leaks. Seniors connecting with medical professionals via video chat to discuss issues and to seek assistance in real time.

Tailor-made solutions and smart devices enabling them to go through their daily routine independently.

This is not the future – in a sense, it is already the past: what I am describing here is the setting of a pilot project carried out by Huawei together with IBM and local authorities in Bolzano, Italy, in 2011.

The "Safer living" initiative tried out technology that was still in its infancy then, but is set to define our future. It aimed to use wireless technology and to connect things to address some of the problems associated with an ageing population.

The project turned out to be very successful.

In addition to providing increased safety, thanks to the large amount of data collected, more than half of the participants' health condition improved or remained stable, and over 80 % of those using a computer to seek help showed significant improvement.

Analysis revealed that the system could help reduce health and home safety costs by as much as 31 %.

Changing demographics

The significance of these findings becomes clear when we look at the demographic changes predicted for Europe over the coming decades.

According to the European Commission's latest ageing report, the share of the population aged 65 and over will rise to almost 30 % by 2060, with the EU moving from having about four working-age people for every person aged over 65 to just two.

The profound socio-economic impact of this shift is beginning to be felt already today.

As decision-makers are struggling to design policies adapting societal models to this new scenario, they are increasingly looking towards innovation for solutions.

The vertical transformation of our societies and economies, triggered by changing age relations, is matched by another vertical mutation process. The trend towards digitisation, fuelled by next-generation networks offering connectivity at staggering speeds, is about to revolutionise the way we live.

The Internet of Things will connect billions of smart objects, redefining virtually every aspect of our daily lives, from housekeeping to the organisation of work.

I believe that the digital revolution underway has tremendous potential for addressing many of the issues associated with an ageing population.

5G, the next generation of wireless technology, forms an integral part of the solution.

Smart care

As the Bologna project has demonstrated, wireless technology combined with smart devices can be the key to more independent lifestyles for elderly people.

If we transpose this scenario into a context where broadband connectivity is available virtually anywhere, at speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second, a world of opportunities opens up for creating age-friendly environments.

A multitude of captors, sensors and smart devices will be able to monitor anything from health indicators to data related to home safety.

Users of monitoring schemes will be able to connect with qualified staff to seek advice at any time.

Families will be able to connect easily from a distance to check on their loved ones.

Rather than requiring costly investments, these services are likely to rely to a large extent on existing infrastructure, deployed as the whole of society is moving towards ubiquitous connectivity.

Smart services to the elderly will be a facet of the smart city of the future. This means that the cost of independence will be largely offset by savings in long-term care.

To get there, we need to take decisive steps towards making the key technologies involved in this process a reality.

Huawei has been working with European partners to achieve this, heavily investing in 5G technology and cooperating with other members of the European industry and research community to harness the potential of the Internet of Things.

Let's work together to create an inclusive society in which truly everyone is connected.

Disclaimer: This article is sponsored by a third party. All opinions in this article reflect the views of the author and not of EUobserver.

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