The push of a button or a simple voice command can turn on the lights, adjust the temperature, open blinds and change the TV channel — all thanks to a Calgary developer who has found a way to fully automate daily tasks to help people with limited mobility live independently.
His technology will be used the city's first fully automated assisted living apartment building, Inclusio.
"What we did is we map out what everybody does every sort of day: morning, noon, night," Mike Dummer, president of Digital Lifestyles, said. "We've put it in the palm of their hand with a tablet or a phone."
Construction on the new apartment complex began in 2016 and is expected to wrap up in 2018.
The apartments overlook Confederation Park in the northwest community of Capitol Hill.
They're run by the non-profit organization Accessible Housing Calgary, and will have space for 45 people with limited mobility and incomes below $46,000. Residents will share common areas, patios and a dining room, and will have access to on-site recreational therapy and health-care aides.
Dummer spoke with the Calgary Eyeopener about how he's tried to use automation to improve people's independence.
Q: Why did you get involved in this project? What was your interest?
A: I have a neighbour who suffers from cerebral palsy and I was over at their house one Christmas.
I was just sort of watching the challenges that he had — operating lights, turning the TV on and off, trying to get the hockey game on, operate his elevator that took him from the basement to the first floor, letting people in and out of the house, which he couldn't do, garage door — various things like that.
We're in the automation business so I looked at that and I thought, you know what, I could probably solve a lot of these things for him.
Listen to how smart high-tech features help people live independently:
So we started doing the research, we started writing the software and we put a test system in there and let him have at it.
Over a couple years, we did this for a number of other folks in the same position.
We refined it and refined it until we got it to the point where it really helped them. It enhanced their life. It changed things for them.
Q: What do you mean changed things for them? What difference did the technology make in your neighbour's life?
A: Well there's things that you need help with that he no longer needs to have help with.
Everything that we take for granted, he couldn't do. You always need somebody there with you.
If you take those obstacles away, you no longer need help. You're now self sufficient and that's what we did.
Q: And that self-sufficiency makes a difference in someone's life, doesn't it?
A: Makes a huge difference, yes.
Q: So how different will Inclusio be from the kind of housing disabled Calgarians currently live in?
A: It's my understanding right now and from what I've seen and the research that we've done is, we sort of have a model now where it's more of like a nursing home or an assisted living.
And these folks don't necessarily need that. They need their own house and if we can put that accessibility in their own hands, they can live independently.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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With files from Lisa Robinson and the Calgary Eyeopener.
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