Helal has devoted the past several years to developing smart devices for the elderly in a model home known as the Gator Tech Smart Home in Gainesville.
He and his students pioneered the Smart Wave microwave oven that can automatically determine how much time to cook a frozen meal or keep track of how much salt it contains. Among other devices, they also created an instrument that records how many steps a person takes, information that can tell absent caregivers how active its occupants are.
But these and other devices currently have a major shortcoming: They require a team of engineers to install them, Helal said. In a world where consumers are accustomed to electronics that require no more than a power outlet, that dramatically limits their appeal. We decided to create a technology that self integrates, Helal said. When you bring it in to the house and plug it in, it automatically provides its service and finds a path to the outside world.
With $60,000 in research funding from IBM, Helal designed middleware, or software and hardware that glues together different systems, that can give his and any similar health-aid devices this independence and connectivity. Importantly, the software is based on open standards, or publicly available specifications useable by anyone, such as those now being made available by consortiums of technology companies including Eclipse, W3C and OSGi.
Open standards make it easy for product developers to tap the technology in any new smart assistive devices, Helal said. That, in turn, will make the devices more common.
The hardware component of the system is an inexpensive sensor platform about half the size of a business card. Developed at UF and licensed to Pervasa, a Gai
Contact: Sumi Helal
University of Florida