Updated: Aug 16, 2019
How much personal information do we really need to know? Very little.
While we were developing HomeEXCEPT, the Cambridge Analytica news broke, propelling privacy into mainstream news. Overnight, individuals and their governments were waking up to the painful realization that nothing is private online. When personal information is connected to an individual, it can be used in ways that person might not expect or understand — with very serious consequences. Terms of service (TOS) and privacy policies are often confusing manifestos that permit virtually any use of individual data.
So our question became: “What identifiable information do we really need about the individual to solve the problem?” The answer: None. All we needed was a way to group data and communicate with the customer.
We named the persona of our customer the “Eldest Daughter”. Let’s call her Jill. She worries more about her Mom and/or Dad than her siblings do. And often, she worries more about her in-laws than her husband does.
What personal information do we need to know about Jill? Let’s start with her mobile phone number. This could be used to create an account, authenticate a user, and group data. Do we need her name, address, email, etc.? Nope. How about her parents’ information? Do we need their names, address, health conditions, etc.? Nope. All we actually need is a mobile phone number.
Jill knows who is being monitored. She knows their personal information, their health concerns, and their habits. Our job was to give Jill a way to access and organize the information so it was useful for her. Our other — just as critical — job was to respect the dignity of Jill’s parents. Privacy for them means no intrusive cameras or listening devices, only the necessary alerts to trigger assistance when needed.
Non-intrusive monitoring is achieved using ambient sensors and artificial intelligence to infer what is happening in a room. Has Mom bathed today? Sensors can infer this from time in the bathroom, changes in humidity, and sound levels (decibels). Over time, this information provides a digital fingerprint (pattern). We call this a “pattern of life” (POL). Changes in the POL can be leading indicators of safety, health, or even social issues that need to be addressed.
Suppose you receive an alert that no one has been present in the home for the past half hour. You expected Dad to be home at this time, so maybe you call to check in on him or ask a neighbour to stop by. No heat events in the kitchen for the past 24 hours? Maybe no one is cooking and Mom isn’t enjoying regular meals.
This simple information can help you get out ahead of challenges and meets changing care requirements for your loved ones. In other words, you and your loved one won’t already be in crisis by the time you realize there’s a problem — all while preserving privacy and autonomy. And what could be more reassuring than that?