Will Seniors be Early Adopters for the Internet of Things?

Tue, October 02, 2018

If the Internet of Things (IoT) conjures images of the Jetsons and self-driving cars, think again. At the NTCA Rural Broadband Association 2018 Fall Conference, Curtis Strole, Executive Director, Customer Relations, NeoNova, talked about how he uses IoT devices as a better way to help his parents age in place. Curtis’s mom and dad, Don and Sally, live in Indiana, 400 miles from his home in Raleigh, NC. When his mom suffered a stroke and lost her mobility, his dad became the primary caregiver and Curtis needed to find ways to be more present. Being an admitted techno geek, Curtis turned to gadgets and gizmos and found some cool tools to help keep his parents safe and save his peace of mind. Yes, he still visits them IN PERSON, but IoT has given him and his dad 24/7 peace of mind.

At the center of Don and Sally’s home are two smart speakers – one in the living room and one in the bedroom. His mom and dad use the speakers like an intercom to speak with each when they are in different parts of the house. They can also use the speaker to talk to Curtis in Indiana. They order supplies, check the weather, play music, get reminders, turn on lights, and get answers to questions like “When is Mary’s birthday?“ or “What year did the Cincinnati Reds win the World Series?” The smart speakers even remind them to take their medications and because they use smart pillboxes, Curtis can easily “see” if the medications have been dispensed.

Using a combination of smart outlets, smart lightbulbs and sensors, Curtis has it set up so that the lights turn on and off when his dad enters each room, providing added security and ease for both parents. The smart doorbell allows his dad to answer the door even when he’s on the golf course; his mom can talk to callers without leaving her chair. Both parents use a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) but instead of the older pendant-around-the-neck, their systems are more like smart watches so they work both inside and outside the house.

NTIA’s work on IoT privacy and cybersecurity is focused on improving the security of IoT devices, which could help more Americans feel comfortable using them. NTIA has taken on a number of issues related to privacy and security concerns for IoT. Specifically, NTIA and the Department of Homeland Security have taken on the threat of botnets, a major issue facing the world because of the sheer number of unsecured devices that exist. NTIA also stresses the importance of multistakeholder action to promote the security of connected devices.

Last year, NTIA convened a collaborative effort between IoT manufacturers, security experts, and other IoT stakeholders that produced recommendations and guidance on how to make sure that connected devices were patchable. NTIA recently launched a new multistakeholder process focused on the transparency of software components – based on the idea that you have to know about any vulnerable components in your connected products if you want to keep them secure.

IoT devices require robust broadband — especially, when you consider that in Don and Sally’s home, they have 35 connected devices. NTIA’s BroadbandUSA team helps support broadband connectivity and digital inclusion projects that would make Don and Sally’s ability to age in place a reality for seniors across America.

To date, BroadbandUSA’s technical assistance team has provided advice to more than 200 projects, as they are working with industry partners to plan, fund and implement local broadband initiatives. This work includes strategizing with communities about how to get more residents, especially seniors to adopt technology. NTIA also continues to support the wireless industry’s preparation for the deployment of 5G networks and services by improving the spectrum pipeline and removing barriers to deployment.