Dementia patients to be tracked by smart meters so that doctors can monitor any sudden changes that indicate illness, falls or mental decline


  • Devices will track patients’ daily routines such as when they boil the kettle 
  • Meters then send alerts to family members or carers who can check on patients
  • Critics warn about a huge range of privacy concerns over data sharing


PUBLISHED: 17:43 EST, 3 February 2019 | UPDATED: 18:43 EST, 3 February 2019

The NHS is to use energy smart meters to monitor dementia patients in their homes.

The devices will track patients’ daily routines, such as when they boil the kettle, cook dinner or turn the washing machine on.

They will flag up any sudden change in behaviour which could indicate an illness, a fall or a decline in their mental state. The meters will be able to send alerts to family members or carers, who can pop round to check if the patient is all right.

The devices will track patients’ daily routines, such as when they boil the kettle, cook dinner or turn the washing machine on

Experts say the devices will enable patients to live independently for longer without going into care, and prevent avoidable admissions to A&E.

Smart meters monitor households’ energy use in real time and send the readings directly to suppliers, putting an end to estimated bills.

Ministers have promised to install the devices in every home by 2020 to reduce energy consumption, but the rollout is massively over budget and behind schedule.

Privacy campaigners warn that the meters will hand suppliers a ‘honeypot’ of data which could be sold on to marketing firms or fall into the hands of hackers.

Researchers at Liverpool John Moores University and the Mersey Care NHS Trust plan to carry out the initial dementia trial on 50 patients, beginning in October.

This will test the ability of the meters to monitor patients’ health and the general progression of their disease. If successful, the trial will be extended to involve 1,000 patients across four NHS trusts.

The smart meters involved in the dementia study can monitor patients’ energy use every ten seconds. They will be connected to a central computer system which will learn patients’ daily routines, such as when they normally use certain electrical appliances.

Any sudden changes – such as not boiling the kettle at the same time each morning or turning lights on in the middle of the night – will trigger an alert.

Dr Carl Chalmers, of Liverpool John Moores University, who is leading the trial, said the devices had ‘huge potential’ to improve dementia patients’ lives.

About 850,000 people in the UK have dementia and this number is expected to double over the next 30 years as the population ages.

Up to 70 per cent of care home residents have the condition and an estimated 50,000 dementia patients are admitted to A&E each year as a result of preventable illnesses.

Dr Chalmers said: ‘This is probably the most convincing piece of technology I have seen. This is massive, the potential of this is huge. It’s not just for dementia but anybody with long-term medical conditions such as depression or schizophrenia.’

Dr Sudip Sikdar, a consultant psychiatrist at Mersey Care NHS Trust, added: ‘With dementia patients, one of their biggest problems is a failure to carry out daily activities.

‘Nearly a third of dementia patients live on their own and they may have carers or they may have family members who visit a couple of times a week and monitor them.

We often find it takes a week or two before someone notices if they deteriorate. If you can intervene early, put in the care package, then the patient would not need to go into a care home.

‘It’s preventing both hospital admissions and placements in care homes, both of which are extremely expensive.’

The trial will initially involve dementia patients who live on their own in the Merseyside region.

Researchers have applied for funding from the Department of Health and will learn in April if they have been successful. They plan to launch the trial either way as they have interest from private companies willing to pay the costs.

Sally Copley, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘Pioneering ideas like smart meters are to be welcomed.

‘However, while technology can be invaluable it must complement rather than replace the human touch to enhance quality of life of people with dementia.’

Martyn James, a consumer rights expert, said: ‘Finding new and creative ways to support vulnerable people in their own homes is a good thing, but this proposal opens the door to a huge range of privacy concerns.

‘We should be extremely wary when it comes to allowing businesses and organisations access to this level of data – and the fact that it can be taken in this level of detail raises the question: what else is technology revealing about our private lives and what if it falls in to the wrong hands?

‘Burglars, for example, could use it to identify when people are out of the house.’



TRACKED FOR ALZ – NHS to trial smart meters which will help monitor dementia patients in their homes

The device will be able to flag up any sudden differences in a patient’s routine which could indicate that the person has fallen, become ill or had a decline in their mental state

By Emma James

4th February 2019, 1:44 amUpdated: 4th February 2019, 1:44 am

SMART meters are going to be used by the NHS to help and monitor dementia patients in their own homes.

It is thought that the devices will be able to track their daily routines such as cooking dinner or boiling the kettle.

The NHS to trial smart meters to help and monitor dementia patients in their homes

The tech will be able to flag up any sudden differences in the routine which could indicate that the person has fallen, become ill or had a decline in their mental state.

They will then be able to alert a family member or carer who will then attend the address of the patient to check on their welfare.

The NHS trial will start this year following initial research by computer science experts at Liverpool John Moores University.

A six month observation trial was launched for the technology in 2017, and a more extensive trial of 50 patients is being launched by the University and Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Experts claim that the devices could prevent admissions to A&E and also allow patients to live an independent life for longer without going into care homes.




Detecting Activities of Daily Living with Smart Meters

Conference Paper · January 2013 with 1,152 Reads

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-37988-8_10

Publisher: 2191-6853

Cite this publication

Jana Clement
Joern Ploennigs

Klaus Kabitzsch


Smart meters provide us new information to visualize, analyze, and op-timize the energy consumption of buildings, to enable demand-response optimiza-tions, and to identify the usage of appliances. They also can be used to help older people to stay longer independent in their homes by detecting their activity and their behavior models to ensure their healthy level. This paper reflects methods that can be used to analyze smart meter data to monitor human behavior in single apartments. Two approaches are explained in detail. The Semi-Markov-Model (SMM) is used to train and detect individual habits by analyzing the SMM to find unique structures representing habits. A distribution of the most possible executed activity (PADL) will be calculated to allow an evaluation of the currently executed activity (ADL) of the inhabitant. The second approach introduces an impulse based method that also allows the detection of ADLs and focuses on temporal analysis of parallel ADLs. Both methods are based on smart meter events describing which home appliance was switched. Thus this paper will also give an overview of popular strategies to detect switching events on electricity consumption data.



How a smart meter could save your life

News & Analysis

18th July 2018

As we get older it becomes easier to neglect our health. As we age we increasingly fail to notice the small changes in our lives that can indicate a more serious condition further down the line. But what if our energy use could help us spot these changes and diagnose issues earlier?

Every few seconds, households in the UK share data with their energy supplier, showing spikes in energy use. With the rise of smart meters, we are now able to track this usage down to an individual device, and the data, if read the right way, is able to tell us (for example) the last time the kettle was boiled. This wealth of information is already being gathered by the likes of EDF and British Gas but it can be utilised to tell us so much more about our health.

Our energy use can easily draw a picture of our daily routine, from the time we get up to when we cook in the evening, and this insight can be critical in identifying subtle changes to our routine. As we get older, changes in our behaviour tends to be gradual and difficult to spot, but by accessing data which is already being taken, we can track these changes in an unobtrusive way.

With 3.5 million people living alone aged over 65, there is a much higher risk of gradual changes going unnoticed, with the first sign of an issue often only coming to light after something drastic happens, such as a fall.

Monitoring systems can learn routines over time, and start to distinguish when changes are one offs or a reoccurring issue. While they cannot identify specific health issues, the information can be utilised by health professionals to help them come to a diagnosis more quickly. Signals such as getting up later, using devices in the night, or kitchen appliances going un-used, can help raise red flags before a situation becomes serious.

These monitoring systems will alert the individual of the changes and encourage them to have further conversations with their family and health team, rather than simply dismissing them as ‘old age’.

Conditions which could be identified by these signals include arthritis, and the early stages of dementia and insomnia.

For prioritised cases we also have the option of maximising this data by adding more data points and bringing in other technology. Conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which effects nearly two per cent of the population, can be better monitored by combining the data with additional sensors and advanced medtech. Interactive weighing scales can help identify a decline in certain heart conditions while home blood oxygen measurements can help those living with COPD to stay independent.

By giving individuals ownership of their data, they can become better informed about their health, and even use it to aid conversations with doctors and other health professionals. Rather than visiting a doctor and trying to describe the history of the presenting condition, individuals can take their data, from over a period of time, to demonstrate how long it has been going on for. This saves time and resource for both the doctor and the patient.

With these advancements, it is important to remember that technology is still not designed to replace doctors and trained health professionals and should rather be used to encourage people to have open conversations about their health, especially as they get older. Early intervention for the vulnerable who are otherwise healthy and active through unobtrusive steps is a great way to prevent bigger issues emerging and helps to free up the already strained NHS.

Louise Rogerson is the COO of Howz, the home monitoring system that keeps families up to date with the wellbeing of elderly relatives, alongside being a chartered physiotherapist with 18 years’ experience of working in the NHS in clinical, operational and commissioning roles

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