Use of an Internet-of-Things Smart Home System for Healthy Aging in Older Adults in Residential Settings: Pilot Feasibility Study

JMIR Aging. 2020 Nov 10;3(2):e21964. doi: 10.2196/21964.


Background: The Internet-of-Things (IoT) technologies can create smart residences that integrate technology within the home to enhance residents' safety as well as monitor their health and wellness. However, there has been little research on real-world testing of IoT smart home devices with older adults, and the feasibility and acceptance of such tools have not been systematically examined.

Objective: This study aims to conduct a pilot study to investigate the feasibility of using IoT smart home devices in the actual residences of older adults to facilitate healthy aging.

Methods: We conducted a 2-month feasibility study on community-dwelling older adults. Participants chose among different IoT devices to be installed and deployed within their homes. The IoT devices tested varied depending on the participant's preference: a door and window sensor, a multipurpose sensor (motion, temperature, luminosity, and humidity), a voice-operated smart speaker, and an internet protocol (IP) video camera.

Results: We recruited a total of 37 older adults for this study, with 35 (95%) successfully completing all procedures in the 2-month study. The average age of the sample was 78 (SD 9) years and primarily comprised women (29/37, 78%), those who were educated (31/37, 86%; bachelor's degree or higher), and those affected by chronic conditions (33/37, 89%). The most widely chosen devices among the participants were multipurpose sensors and smart speakers. An IP camera was a significantly unpopular choice among participants in both phases. The participant feedback suggests that perceived privacy concerns, perceived usefulness, and curiosity to technology were strong factors when considering which device to have installed in their home.

Conclusions: Overall, our deployment results revealed that the use of IoT smart home devices is feasible in actual residences of older adults. These findings may inform the follow-up assessment of IoT technologies and their impact on health-related outcomes and advance our understanding of the role of IoT home-based monitoring technologies to promote successful aging-in-place for older adults. Future trials should consider older adults' preferences for the different types of smart home devices to be installed in real-world residential settings.

Keywords: Internet of Things; aging; healthy aging; independent living; smart home.