Smart­phone to con­trol home devices

NFC tech­nol­ogy may be able to as­sist the el­derly and dis­abled in their homes.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SENIOR - By MAJORIE CHIEW star2@ thes­tar. com. my

IN the near fu­ture, se­nior cit­i­zens may be able to op­er­ate elec­tronic gad­gets such as fans, lights, the tele­vi­sion or air- conditioner, us­ing their smart­phones.

A re­search pro­ject funded by the Min­istry of Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy and In­no­va­tion ( Mosti) is be­ing led by Monash Univer­sity Malaysia to as­sist the el­derly, dis­abled and peo­ple with mo­tor dis­abil­i­ties in their daily lives.

This multi- dis­ci­pline re­search is con­ducted by re­searchers from Monash Univer­sity Malaysia, Mul­ti­me­dia Univer­sity ( Malaysia), City Univer­sity of Hong Kong and Fu­dan Univer­sity ( China), and hopes to make use of smart­phones and Near Field Com­mu­ni­ca­tion ( NFC) tech­nol­ogy.

Pro­ject leader Dr Teh Pei Lee, As­soc Prof of School of Busi­ness, Monash Univer­sity Malaysia, says: “There is an in­creas­ing so­ci­etal con­cern for the health and well- be­ing of older adults. In this pro­ject, the re­search team has de­vel­oped an ap­pli­ca­tion that utilises NFC smart­phones to re­alise ‘ tap- to- con­nect’ in­ter­ac­tion, re­plac­ing the need for mul­ti­ple hand- held con­trollers for dif­fer­ent devices.”

“No tech­nol­ogy skills or sys­tem knowl­edge is re­quired to op­er­ate the sys­tem. This sys- tem is in­tu­itive, easy and con­ve­nient for home users, es­pe­cially older adults,” Teh says, adding that the sys­tem is still un­der­go­ing re­search and de­vel­op­ment. The ini­tial de­sign and de­vel­op­ment were done by Mul­ti­me­dia Univer­sity lec­tur­ers Cheong Soon Nyean and Yap Wen Jiun.

Re­search as­sis­tant Jonathan Kee, a fi­na­lyear stu­dent of psy­cho­log­i­cal sci­ence and busi­ness at Monash Univer­sity Malaysia, says: “The sys­tem works on NFC tech­nol­ogy – sim­i­lar to Touch N Go/ Smartag – and op­er­ates within a cer­tain range. The unique­ness of this sys­tem is that it does not need an In­ter­net con­nec­tion which can be re­garded as ex­pen­sive to some peo­ple in Malaysia.”

One of the aims of this as­sis­tive tech­nol­ogy is to reach out to low- in­come earn­ers, who may be re­tirees with­out an in­come or who are re­ly­ing on their re­tire­ment ben­e­fits for daily liv­ing.

The sys­tem that has been de­signed cur­rently in­volves two ap­pli­ca­tions – the NFC smart­phone sys­tem ( for smart­phone users) and the NFC set- top- box ( for non- smart­phone users).

With the smart­phone sys­tem, users can op­er­ate elec­tronic ap­pli­ances such as fans, lights, tele­vi­sion or an air- con­di­tion­ing unit, us­ing an NFC smart­phone. The user taps their smart­phone on a photo in­ter­face ( em­bed­ded with NFC tags) to op­er­ate the elec­tronic ap­pli­ances.

Those who don’t have smart­phones, will be able to use an NFC set- top- box in­stead. Th­ese users can op­er­ate elec­tronic ap­pli­ances such as fans, lights, tele­vi­sion or an air- con­di­tion­ing unit, us­ing a set- top- box and NFC card ( em­bed­ded with NFC tag). The user taps the spec­i­fied NFC card ( eg TV, lamp, air­con, etc) on the set- top- box to op­er­ate the cor­re­spond­ing elec­tronic ap­pli­ance.

There’s a catch though. The elec­tronic devices in ques­tion will have to be BLE-en­abled ( that is, Blue­tooth-low- en­ergy-en­abled), or be con­nected to an ex­ter­nal BLE plug, and this tech­nol­ogy is not yet avail­able in the mar­ket place.

Hope­fully by the time this de­sign is ready to be com­mer­cialised, tech­nol­ogy would have caught up.

Mean­while, the re­searchers are look­ing for peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate in their ex­per­i­men­tal study. Fo­cused mainly in the Klang Val­ley and Ipoh, the study will in­volve at least 400 re­spon­dents aged 50 and above, and hopes to ex­am­ine fac­tors that will in­flu­ence the el­derly’s in­ten­tions, ac­cep­tance and use of the sys­tem. This on­go­ing study/ sur­vey will end on April 30.

The find­ings of the sur­vey will be used to as­sist the de­vel­op­ers in their tech­nol­ogy de­sign and de­vel­op­ment.

The 40- minute sur­vey will in­clude an ex­per­i­ment on how to op­er­ate the smart­phone home sys­tem us­ing an NFC smart­phone, a ques­tion­naire and in­ter­view ses­sion. The re­spon­dents need not be well versed in us­ing smart­phones and their iden­ti­ties will be anony­mous.

The univer­sity has set up a sur­vey cen­tre at the Alzheimer’s Dis­ease Foun­da­tion Malaysia Re­source Li­brary in Pe­tal­ing Jaya. Upon com­ple­tion of the sur­vey, a to­ken RM10 voucher from Aeon Co ( M) Bhd will be given to each re­spon­dent. Any­one who is 50 years and above who wishes to par­tic­i­pate can SMS/ What­sApp Jenny at 016- 608 2513 or e- mail jenny@ adfm. org. my to set up an ap­point­ment.

— MAJOriE chiEW/ The Star

An in­struc­tional video to show an ap­pli­ca­tion that utilises Near Field com­mu­ni­ca­tion ( NFc) smart­phone to re­alise ‘ tap- to­con­nect’ in­ter­ac­tion, which re­places the need for mul­ti­ple hand­held con­trollers for dif­fer­ent elec­tronic gad­gets.

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