Creating a Society That Promotes Health and Longevity: Combining Life Support Robots and IoT

What does it mean to ‘be healthy’?

Many people wish for a long, healthy life. But what does it really mean to be ‘healthy’? People have different feelings toward what it is to be healthy—from being able to enjoy their food to sleeping well. The World Health Organization calls functions that aid humans in their lives their ‘vital functions,’ and advocates a level of independence in these functions as a measure of health.

The concept of “ADL” (Activities of Daily Living) is a yardstick for measuring the condition of these vital functions. It refers to basic physical actions that humans perform repeatedly in their everyday life, such as walking and ‘transferring,’ eating and drinking, dressing, bathing, going to the bathroom and grooming. As with QOL (Quality of Life), it is gaining status as an essential way of thinking for realizing an enriching and vivacious aging society.

Walking Assistance Carts: Helping the Elderly Walk Safely

Walking is one of the most fundamental actions for achieving ADL. For elderly people, walking on their own feet is considered an effective way to avoid becoming bedridden or homebound. In recent years, there have even been reports that increasing opportunities to exercise, such as by walking, can lower their mortality rate.

Recently, the use of devices—such as braces that improve walking ability, and life support robots—that help the elderly to walk independently is increasing.

The motorized walking assistance cart, developed by RT.WORKS, is one such life support robot designed to assist nursing care. The elderly can walk comfortably simply by gently clutching the handles of the cart, which is equipped with features that support walking safely without falling over, even on slopes. Fujitsu has developed an IoT system that monitors the safety of this walking assistance cart, and is now offering this service to the public.

Diagram: Using a walking assistance cart combined with an IoT platform

An Environment Where the Elderly Can Go Outside Without Worry

The walking assistance cart’s IoT system is equipped with various sensors, such as GPS and the 6-axis motion sensor, which are connected to a network. Data on walking speed, tilt of the cart, usage of the cart, the user's health status, etc. will accumulate in the cloud, which can then be collected and analyzed.

With this data, the user of the walking assistance cart can promptly check the distance walked, the walking speed, and their own health status on devices such as smartphones. Furthermore, families and other caretakers can watch over the elderly 24 hours a day, even from remote locations. They can check in real time if elderly people are entering dangerous areas and can rush to their rescue in an emergency.

This would allow the elderly to go outside in safety and comfort, thereby participating freely in social activities and hobbies suited to each generation, without being homebound. The walking assistance cart has been introduced and tested in around 100 facilities, mainly nursing facilities, and is scheduled to be available to the public in July.

Together with RT.WORKS, Fujitsu will continue developing new businesses for the super-aging society, such as for medical and nursing care, for use by local governments.