By Norman G. DeLisle
“The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects—devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data.” -Wikipedia Article on The Internet of Things
Recently, I’ve noticed an uptick in the attention that the IoT is paying to devices and networking that would be of use to people with disabilities, and the general use that the IoT is increasingly having for everyone, including people with disabilities.
The most obvious example is making driverless cars a reality. And it isn’t simply the goal of totally driverless cars. Each incremental effort by manufacturers to make cars safer by automating safety actions or reducing information and decision burden makes cars easier to use for everyone, including people with disabilities. (See post by M. Catherine McAdam “My Driverless Car“)
There are others. I recently posted a link to a device that uses ultra-small amounts of microwaves to detect glucose levels so that no finger prick is required. In addition, it uses an app to record ongoing glucose levels so that more information about the dynamic of blood sugar is available for use by the person in making short term glucose management decisions and in understanding the long term trend of, say, Type 1 diabetes.
In addition to “things” that increase personal control over health or physical status, there are other potential tools for supporting recovery on the horizon. If the core of the Recovery Movement is the expansion of personal control over life through management of symptoms that reduce control and the building of a personal social network that supports the recovery journey, then the IoT will have “things” to offer us as well.
The use of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is currently only a research tool in depression, pain control, empathy development, and a variety of other issues because (it seems just plain weird) it is expensive to do, and there is no solid framework for understanding what it does. But it is also non-invasive and has predictably short term effects allowing for eventual actual personal control over its use. Is it too strange to envision a genuinely portable device that you could use as a specific method of controlling a specific symptom? Is it even much too “stranger” to imagine a social network of people using TMS as a part of their social interaction?
Although environmental control has been a possibility for people with disabilities for some time, it has traditionally been a very expensive tool requiring the development of highly customized control systems. Now, because of the ubiquity of wireless and smartphones, and the drop in price for small devices that can control house systems (the expansion of the whole consumer market for such devices and environmental control), it is possible to create a voice managed control system using something like the Amazon Echo inside the house and a smartphone app when outside the house. Your personal system can be assembled a bit at a time, allowing you to customize it to your needs as you go.
There is a distinction in disability studies between “accommodation” and “accessibility” which points to the fundamental difference between a community response that creates access (accommodation) for a specific individual (segregation) and one that allows everyone (accessibility) to use the community (inclusion). I think the IoT is beginning to muddy that distinction by making universal access to the community a part of the general development of the IoT and the parallel creation of devices that can be customized by the individual person to connect to that general community. IoT is a trend worth watching by our community. We will also, as always, need members of our community to be at the forefront of making IoT realize the possibility it has for all of us.
- Internet of Things could be the low-cost ‘connectivity key’ that transforms lives in developing countries
- Beyond the Hype: These Technologies at CES Can Help People in Need
- Can the Internet of Things bridge the digital divide?