Why IoT for seniors is a lot tougher than it looks

Why IoT for seniors is a lot tougher than it looks


Senior citizens are often touted as a huge potential market for the Internet of Things (IoT), but progress may be slower than a retiree with a bad hip.

We’ve all heard the promises about how the Internet of Things (IoT) is perfectly positioned to provide healthcare, entertainment and a wide variety of other services to the aging populations of many industrialized nations. The need is real because the population of countries like Japan, Italy, Greece, and Germany are getting older fast, resulting in a dearth of youngsters able (and willing, of course) to take care of their parents’ generation.

The idea — bolstered by a European Commission on the topic — is that autonomous devices, robots, built-in sensors, medical and fitness wearables, voice-activated assistants, specially tuned smart homes, and other IoT innovations will fill in the gaps, helping meet the needs of seniors without requiring legions of younger workers. But when I saw a recent CNBC story about Google’s Nest home automation unit exploring the senior citizen market, it made me laugh out loud.

Seniors find software bugs in places you never knew existed

I’m not so young anymore, which means that my parents, along with those of many of my family and friends, are now deep into their golden years. While many of them remain sharp as a tack, others have increasing trouble navigating their daily tasks. And while many of them rely on technology to stay in touch with their far-flung social networks, this is far from a seamless process.

Even seniors who retain all their faculties find themselves continually frustrated by confusing, hard-to-decipher user interfaces, and complex, multi-stage installation and operation procedures. Stiff, ill-placed keys and buttons confound arthritic fingers, super-sensitive touchscreens invite mistakes, while instructions in tiny type make it hard for aging eyes to see what’s going on.

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