Yamin Durrani headshot
Yamin Durrani

The numbers are jarring. According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 36 million falls are reported annually among older adults. Falls result in more than 3 million trips to the emergency department and 32,000 deaths.

Although it’s impossible to prevent every fall, detection services provide many benefits to senior living residents and other older adults. Smart monitoring with falls detection promotes independent living, improves safety, ensures a high quality of life and offers peace of mind to residents’ family members. Many people, however, question whether privacy is at risk and whether monitoring systems with falls detection enable older adults and their families to maintain confidentiality.

AI-based fall detection technology offers a way to mitigate falls

Technology solutions offer a way to reduce falls and keep older adults safe. For example, falls management systems enabled with vision artificial intelligence sensors can detect falls and provide data to help prevent the risk of falling in the future.

Consumers already are familiar with falls detection in devices such as the Apple Watch. To bring the same peace of mind to a larger scale, a senior living or assisted living community can incorporate cameras enabled with AI sensors for falls detection.

Advanced AI sensors can monitor a person’s movement and environment. Sensors identify whether a person falls by detecting abrupt changes in body movements. Then, the technology sends an alert to a response team for verification and notifies caregivers via phone call, SMS or email. The whole process takes fewer than two minutes.

Privacy is a primary consideration for widespread adoption

The benefits of falls detection technology are clear: detect falls, provide care quickly, keep people safe and prevent future falls. Privacy concerns may be a barrier to widespread adoption, however. As with any new technology, people have concerns about being monitored and protecting their personal information. We saw this with the beginning of the internet, online banking and e-commerce.

Eighty-eight percent of Americans say it is “important” that no one watches or listens to them without their permission, whereas 67% feel this is “very important” and 20% say it is “somewhat important and with good reason.” And rightfully so — whether installing AI cameras at a traditional house or at a senior living and care facility, it is a person’s home, a place of safety, refuge and retreat from the outside world. Introducing cameras into the living space opens the potential to bring the outside world in, and people may feel violated if viewers see their habits and routines.

So what is the balance between security and privacy? How can we improve safety while ensuring people  maintain privacy and confidentiality in their daily lives?

Balancing privacy and security is a must

Fortunately, while safety technology has advanced, so has privacy technology. As a result, many options exist to ensure that people maintain their privacy while using tech that incorporates safety measures:

  1. Blurred video. Clips can be blurred to protect the identity and dignity of the individual. Although falls are common, they also can be a point of embarrassment and distress for older adults. Obscuring a person’s identity can go a long way to alleviating those challenging emotions. 
  1. Encryption. A key component of privacy is ensuring that content is as cyber-secure as possible. Any computer vision infrastructure adopted in senior living communities must have bank- or government-grade encryption and a commitment never to share or sell an individual’s private information.
  1. Edge-based. Edge-based AI reduces vulnerability to cyber attacks. Running machine learning algorithms on end devices, rather than sending data to the cloud for inference processing, improves data security and privacy. There is a reduced likelihood of intersecting sensitive data in the transfer to the cloud. Edge AI also improves latency and reduces bandwidth costs and the total solution cost for senior living communities.

The bottom line? Falls detection technology doesn’t have to compromise privacy

The advancement of AI and cameras allows us to experience the best of both worlds — high privacy and high security. Falls detection in senior living is empowering to older adults. It promotes safety and improves the quality of life while maintaining residents’ privacy. Smart monitoring with computer vision promotes independent living and gives peace of mind to family members.

Yamin Durrani is CEO of Kami Vision.

The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living marketplace column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.

Have a column idea? See our submission guidelines here.