How Caregivers in Singapore Are Embracing the Internet of Things to Improve Lives | SPD - Singapore

How Caregivers in Singapore Are Embracing the Internet of Things to Improve Lives

12/04/2018

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been making able-bodied people’s lives easier for a while now, but there is increasing evidence that the IoT can be used to improve the lives of people with disabilities too. The IoT enables everyday objects to be connected via the internet. Amazon’s Alexa is a great example of a virtual assistant device, but there are many others, including Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant. Not everyone welcomes the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology in the home, but for people with disabilities and their caregivers, the IoT is a godsend.

The Evolution of Technology

Tech giants are developing a number of useful IoT gadgets to help people with disabilities. For example, Microsoft has developed an app to help blind people “see”. The Seeing AI app can be downloaded to a smartphone. It uses the smartphone’s camera to describe the immediate environment, which helps the blind person avoid dangerous traffic or objects. The app can also read facial expressions, which is an interesting – and potentially awkward – development.

Exciting New Gadgets for the Home

The most important development, however, is in gadgets for the home. 3.4 per cent of the population (18-49) have some form of disability. The figure is even higher for people aged 50 and over (13.3 per cent). People with mobility disabilities struggle to move around their home, so switching appliances on and off, adjusting the air-con, and turning a light on or off is a complex task for them. Smart appliances controlled by AI devices are extremely useful for people with disabilities and can often provide a measure of much-needed independence in the home.

Most people with disabilities want more autonomy and independence, so a simple device like Amazon’s Alexa is a real breakthrough. The more independence a person with disability has, the less care they need. For family and friends who act as caregivers, the IoT is a huge breakthrough.

Wearables

IoT is also proving useful in other areas. Wearables are a familiar sight these days, with smartwatches and Fitbit devices feeding us data on everything, from our pulse rate to the latest weather forecast. IoT-powered wearables can also help disabled people achieve greater independence. Smartwatches can translate text messages or incoming mail into Braille or send verbal cues to help the person navigate about in an unfamiliar environment. It is even possible to pay for things via smart devices using cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin in Singapore.

The Singapore Government Supports People with Disabilities

The government is also working hard to support caregivers. The Enabling Masterplan is a five-year national scheme for supporting people with disabilities and their caregivers. Previous plans focused on education, employment, accessibility and assistive technologies, but the latest scheme will take a three-pronged approach that includes an emphasis on employment support, increased spending on various initiatives, and more support for caregivers.

In the recent budget 2018, Finance Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat announced that the spending on health and social services will be increased by $550 million dollars to better serve the needs of the ageing Singaporeans.

This article is contributed by Murray LeClair, a UK-based freelance finance writer. His works have appeared in publications such as The Market Mogul, Managers.org.uk and VentureBurn.

Opinions expressed in the article are the writer’s own and may not necessarily reflect the views of SPD.

References
Hui, K. X. (2017, February 08). People with disabilities a focus for 2017 Budget: Indranee Rajah. Retrieved April 04, 2018, from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/people-with-disabilities-a-focus-for-2017-budget-indranee-rajah

Ming, C. P. (n.d.). Singapore Budget 2018: S$550m increase in spending on health and social services. Retrieved April 04, 2018, from http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/government-economy/singapore-budget-2018/singapore-budget-2018-s550m-increase-in-spending-on-health

Persons with Disabilities (n.d.). Retrieved April 04, 2018, from https://www.msf.gov.sg/assistance/pages/default.aspx?categoryID=6