What is the energy price of independent living? A review of energy consumption of AT products in inclusive smart homes

Maintaining good health and independence for as long as possible is essential for a globally ageing population and people with disabilities. Assistive Technology (AT) products are intended to enhance the functional capabilities and increase independence for elderly and individuals living with disabilities. Some of AT products are relatively low-tech devices such as glasses, grips, and crutches. The application of safety-critical products that consume comparatively large amounts of domestic energy may require additional consideration in regions where reliability of energy delivery may be an issue. A mainstream ‘smart home’ offers the owner the convenience of monitoring and controlling their domestic environment. These proprietary environmental controllers are now affordable through commercial systems such as monitoring and controlling environment controllers for instance Hive, Amazon Alexa, Echo and Siri etc. These systems are often low-voltage and do not appear to add significantly to domestic energy consumption. Individuals and families living with a cognitive or physical disability often require motorized systems that draw much more energy than monitoring systems. Whilst energy consumption relating to mainstream smart homes is well documented, energy use in daily activities among those with physical disability is less well defined. This leads to the question: “what is energy consumption and associated cost for independent living for the people with disabilities within a smart home?” To explore this question further, a literature review of smart home and specific high-energy requirement equipment was completed. Databases were chosen that provide a wide range of literature that has a focus on smart homes and AT products associated with tasks that aid manual handling and moving. A number of personas were created from information gathered from the literature review to provide an indication of the amount of energy consumed, with an indication of when spikes in demand may occur. The study concludes with the comparison of an AT smart home with a mainstream equivalent, savings in care costs and consequences of power outage for the AT homes. Areas for further research are also suggested.