Tagged World Project uses RFID to evaluate "living willingness"

One of the more interesting booths at CEATEC is that of the Tagged World Project (more in Japanese here). It aims to deploy many RFID tags around an elderly person’s domicile, and then equip their slippers (or other house clothes) with RFID readers that will read the tags in its proximity. Then a variety of analyses can be performed on the data collected to determine, ostensibly, how healthy and active an older person is.

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From their English-language handout:

  • When the elderly come to need care, the elderly themselves and their family take big burden.
  • It is important to prevent the elderly from coming to be cared.
  • We pay attention to the Living Willingness of the elderly.
  • Living Willingness of the elderly is judged from daily actions which require efforts to do like bed making or cleaning.
  • We check “HOW” the elderly do the action not “WHAT” the elderly do.
  • For example, if living willingness is high, the elderly move obstacles such as chairs to clean every place of the room.

The theory is that if you can keep tabs on how a person performs day-to-day tasks — like, are they making a real effort to keep their house clean, or are they just going through the motions? — you can have a better idea of how healthy (physically and emotionally) that person is. Not a bad idea, even if it does sound a little invasive.

I can’t help but think of my own grandmother as I reflect on this use of technology. When my grandmother became less steady on her feet, we purchased for her a wheeled walker, as well as one of those four-footed walking canes. The former was intended to be used out of the house, while the latter was intended for her to use when inside her own home. We impressed upon her the importance of using the cane for safety sake, and she assured us that she’d keep it with her at all times at home.

I stopped over to check on her one afternoon. I knocked on her door, and peered inside the glass window of her front door to see her watching TV on her couch. She smiled at me, and rose slowly to come to the door. Sure enough, her cane was right there by the couch. I watched, in mixed horror and amusement, as she gripped the cane handle and proceeded to drag it behind her as she walked to the door! She was doing what we had asked — keeping the cane close to her — even though she wasn’t doing what we had really expected of her.

I wonder how something like the Tagged World Project might similarly miss the point…