Leiden, 12 February 2013. Intelligent observation systems will herald a healthcare revolution soon. That’s the firm conviction of electrotechnical expert dr. ir. Irek Karkowski. In January, Karkowski joined Dutch Domotics in Leiden as Chief Technical Officer. Karkowski, previously a researcher with TNO Defence, Safety and Security Research, is one of Europe’s leading experts in intelligent sensor systems and contactless detection techniques. At Dutch Domotics, he’ll be responsible for further development and implementation of contactless, intelligent monitoring systems in health care. His research involves both conventional domotics, e.g. passive infrared sensors, and radar systems.

Automated nurse call system

“Standard homecare is surprisingly conservative”, says Karkowski. “Residents are fobbed of with an alarm button on a piece of string. It lies hidden on some shelf in the cupboard, people won’t wear it when at risk of falling. And what about alarm systems consisting of a row of buttons on the wall? Manual control, that’s technology from the eighties!” Things need to change, says Karkowski. At TNO, he developed a fully automated nurse call system, making use of tiny wireless sensors at the room’s walls. “That way we can offer a very privacy friendly, contactless, intelligent alarm system, operated fully automated and unobtrusively, even for people with dementia. Clients don’t need to wear anything on their bodies or take any action themselves.” The infrared sensors in the home are to be combined with pressure sensors in the arm chair, bed sensors and a door sensor registrating anyone entering or leaving the home.”

The contactless detection system is suitable both for intra- and extramural healthcare. It can support senior residents who wish to continue living in their own home safely for as long as possible. “By the same framework and the same technology we can serve both intramural and extramural markets. Our system can be implemented anywhere, both in new and established buildings. Besides, the system evolves in line with the successive phases of ageing and senescence of the clients.”

Living at home safely 

For elderly clients who are still more or less self-reliant, a simple configuration consisting of a small computer and a few sensors will do. In the next phase, when clients might become more dependent, the system manager can simply add more components in order to provide more advanced monitoring functions. “For instance, an electronic door-lock with remote control is a great solution for the well-known key problem in emergency situations”, says Karkowski. “Keys always seem to get lost at the wrong moment. When clients have passed out and are lying unconscious on the bedroom floor, relief workers may have to force the door.”

Intelligent alarm

Apart from infrared technology, Dutch Domotics is researching into a new generation of intelligent nurse call systems, based on radar technology. Karkowski: “We’ve got at least another ten to twenty innovations in the pipeline. We’re working on lots of interesting ideas and relevant applications. The great thing about the detection system of Dutch Domotics is that although it has so many extra functions, it is still a lot cheaper than what our competitors have to offer. That’s why I’m confident that Dutch Domotics will quickly conquer the international healthcare markets. We are already active in China, where the One-child policy of family planning will evoke a huge rise in the ageing population. Before long, one Chinese child will have to look after four seniors. Intelligent monitoring systems will then be a great help.”

Almost ready for market

Irek Karkowski was born in Poland. From 1985 to 1991 he studied electrotechnology at Gdansk University of Technology. Next, he did a PhD and 4 years of postdoctoral reseach at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. In 1999, he joined TNO as a project manager involved in intelligent observation systems for healthcare. “These are almost ready for market now, so my fingers are itching! I greatly enjoy researching into products for the consumer market. Besides, healthcare is a fascinating and socially highly relevant field with lots of promising opportunities for applications of new technology.”

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Note to the editor, not for publication:

For further information, please contact mr. Maarten de Boo M.Sc, Business Development Manager at Dutch Domotics, tel …. or 0031-6-45550616.

Dutch Domotics is a subsidiary company of Applied Radar Technology B.V. Our mission is to improve the freedom of clients in care facilities, allow a longer stay at home, realize a higher standard of care. We aim to make healthcare smarter, more efficient and better by means of advanced sensor technology applications. The Netherlands are a source of innovation. Our national standard of healthcare and solutions for healthcare problems are leading. With support from local partners, we provide healthcare innovations worldwide.

Dutch Domotics is an innovative TNO spin-off in the field of domotics and radar technology. Our business team consists of senior professionals from TNO, Philips and UPC. We are in close cooperation with knowledge institutions such as TNO, healthcare institutions, health insurance companies, governments and technology development experts.