How sensors are enabling people to stay in their own homes for longer

28th Jan 2021

It is one of the most emotive issues of our age that causes families pain and heartache and, as the care crisis deepens, the problem of how to care for our loved ones will only become more pressing.
But what if there was a solution that let our relatives and friends stay in their own homes and communities for longer while also reducing the financial burden on local authorities?

John Griffiths and his team of five at Secure Sensor Innovative Design has developed a suite of sensors (Safehouse Technology)  which can detect a range of variables including temperature, humidity, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs),  CO2, light, noise,  motion and air pressure.

The sensors are linked up to a Software as a Service (SasS) (VIPER) which pulls sensor data together for it then to be visualised or fed into Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning models.

The team says that the platform, which can be linked up to emergency response teams, provides a ready-made Internet of Things (IoT) platform for companies and organisations making the move into smart cities as the infrastructure, sensors and cloud services are all in the one place.


John came up for the idea for this approach when working for the Welsh government after his mother was diagnosed with dementia.

"I was a technology specialist for the Welsh Government  and when my mother was diagnosed with dementia, I made a request to work on the assisted living programme.

"I realised pretty rapidly that not all of the assistance people were getting in their homes was helping.

"I looked at hardware to address the problems of keeping people safe in their homes and then developed a system that would allow my mother to stay in her own home.

"She became the longest surviving UK dementia sufferer at home in the UK when she died in 2018. I had been looking after her for 15 years and she had spent 66 years in the same property."


Secure Sensor Innovative Design Ltd, which is based in Cardiff and Edinburgh, have joined five other start-ups at Salford’s MediaCityUK in a 12-week programme, which is led by UP Ventures Group, to discover and test how cities can use technology to adapt to a post-Covid world in partnership with MediaCityUK and Connected Places Catapult.

UP Ventures enables large organisations and startups to create effective innovation and build value together, through innovation programmes, design sprints and workshops while also helping businesses get ready for investment.

John said: "The testbed will allow us to show what our technology can do to a large market.

"We've got lots of concepts that we would like to try out potentially with housing associations.

"It would be great to show them what the latest version of smart city technology and IoT looks like in practise and the cost benefit that it can bring."


How much do the chemicals in the air in our homes affect how we think and feel and how can the temperature of a room impact on this?

It is a question that John, whose own house serves as a testbed, was determined to answer.

He said: "A very small alteration in temperature can make a great difference to sleeping habits and general health and well-being of a person.

"If your body has to work hard during the night to keep warm, it then releases chemicals such as methane, CO2 and other VOCs which affect how we feel.

"We used our technology to monitor my bedroom for VOCs and tested what would happen if we were to alter various radiators in the property to achieve a room temperature that meant my body did not have to work hard overnight.

"Achieving the right temperature made one hell of a difference to how I felt in the morning."

John says this experiment was a lightbulb moment and that it could be particularly effective in improving the mood and alertness of elderly people living on their own or in sheltered accommodation.


Secure Sensor Innovative Design Ltd also took part in the Liverpool 5G Health and Social Care testbed in 2018 which saw 2,000 IoT devices deployed in houses across the city with the aim of improving the lives of vulnerable residents.

The results saw hospital admissions reduced by 41%, GP visits reduced by 17% with those taking part in the project noting that their life satisfaction improved, on average, by 0.7 points on the life satisfaction scale.

John said: "We were able to pick up someone who had early on-set dementia, this was acted upon and the person is now living a happy life at home.

"We found another who was living in fuel poverty who would turn on the heating when their health care professional came round to visit them and then turn it off again when they left.

"Again this was identified and steps taken to ensure that the person could live in a properly heated home."

As the platform has developed, John and his team have also realised that it can be used to make homes and work spaces more energy efficient and also be utilised by facilities management teams to tackle problems that occur on their estates.

Here are four examples of how Secure Sensor Innovative Design technology could be implemented in the future:

Detecting poor living conditions

The VIPER platform accepts commercially available Bluetooth IoT devices meaning that it has many applications for facilities management teams.

Universities could also use Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) sensors, which detect air  particles  harmful to humans, in halls of residence to identify students who may have let their living environments deteriorate and who may need some intervention.

Keeping homes safe

The team are working on an application running on the Amazon Alexa Show 8 that will detect the build up of harmful chemicals in the home that the occupant can then take action against. A smart plug will be used to detect  an excess build up of harmful chemicals such as CO2, dust or mould spores meaning parents could be alerted if there is a build up of dangerous VOCs in their children's bedrooms.

Fall sensor

Detecting falls in the home is crucial to enabling people with age-related disabilities to live in their homes for longer. John and the team have developed a fall sensor which doesn't require the occupant to wear a device or rely on cameras but only needs to sit at a point in a room with a clear field of view.

The new device has been shown to be 98% accurate in detecting falls in the home.

Reducing carbon footprint

The drive to make buildings more energy efficient is increasing in pace but, without a baseline, how can building owners know that the changes they are making are effective? By installing Safehouse Technology sensors and the deploying the VIPER platform, building management teams have a wealth of data available that can be used to isolate problems in each part of the building, for action to be taken and then for the impact of that action to be assessed.
If you think your company could benefit from working with companies on an UP Ventures programme you can contact us here .

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