Smart meter data could help identify dementia

Energy use patterns from smart meter data could be used to help identify whether people are suffering from conditions such as dementia and depression, computer scientists have shown.

Changes in daily energy usage could give vital clues to gradual and sometimes unseen changes in people's behaviour caused by these illnesses.

A report published today (November 18, 2020) by 2020health and commissioned by Smart Energy GB, presents evidence from the world’s first trial to monitor ‘patients’ via their smart meters conducted by Dr Carl Chambers and Dr Paul Fergus of LJMU’s School of Computer Science and Mathematics.

With findings heavily based on the clinical trial, the report states that increased energy use in late evenings or at night could indicate ‘sundowning’ syndrome, which is often a sign of progression from early stages of Alzheimer's to more serious deterioration.

Alert for doctors

In practice, it means that were unusual behaviour detected, an alert could automatically be sent to family members, care workers or doctors. This would allow them to detect and respond to possible health issues at an earlier stage, potentially alleviating pressure on the social and healthcare systems.

Julia Manning, director of 2020health and a member of the Royal Society of Medicine’s Digital Health Council said: “Our ageing society indicates a future of much greater healthcare need.

“Smart-meter technology could prove useful in making it easier and safer for people with conditions, such as dementia, to live independently in their homes for longer.”

There are currently 850,000 people already living with dementia in the UK and that number is expected to grow to 1.6 million by 2040.

Large-scale trial 

The original LJMU trial in 2016 was a collaboration with the Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, in which two people with dementia were recruited for a six-month monitoring study and Chalmers and Fergus are now conducting a 30-month study with 50 participants.

The work is reported today through numerous media outlets including the BBC, the ‘I’ and the Daily Express.


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