The idea that your everyday, at-home appliances might be quietly monitoring your health sounds, in some regards, like a scenario straight out of Black Mirror. According to MIT, it could also be a game-changer for the likes of elderly people living alone, whose everyday interactions with appliances like their dishwasher, microwave, stove, or hairdryer could pick up on valuable data points that could be used to spot early changes in health that might otherwise go unnoticed.
The “Sapple” system, developed by researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), analyzes in-home usage of appliances using radio signals and a smart electricity meter.
By monitoring when and where appliances are used, and layering some smart machine learning algorithms on top, the researchers claim that they can build up a picture of what normal daily activity looks like — and, therefore, understand when it is deviated from. MIT says the metrics it could analyze include personal hygiene, dressing, eating, maintaining continence, and mobility.
“This system uses passive sensing data, and does not require people to change the way they live,” MIT PhD student Chen-Yu Hsu said in a statement. “It has potential to improve things like energy saving and efficiency, give us a better understanding of the daily activities of seniors living alone, and provide insight into the behavioral analytics for smart environments.”
While health benefits are touted as the main point of excitement for the Sapple system, researchers on the project also say it could have a positive environmental impact. Like a Nest thermostat, which learns your preferences, it could use its insights into usage patterns to encourage energy-saving behavior on the part of users.