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Here’s How MIT Will Turbocharge AI So People Can Age In Place

The coming decade, between 2020 and 2030, is when America gets old. A just-announced joint venture’s primary purpose is to fuse individuals’ bio data with sensors churning out environmental data. The aim: To free people to live longer in their own homes as they do get old.

During the next 10-year stretch, according to new research from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, households headed by 80-year-olds and older will make up more than one-in-10 U.S. households. By 2038, upwards of 18 million 80-and-over households will comprise 12% of all households.

Some months ago, Forbes contributor Shourjya Sanyai noted here that in the U.S., Europe, China, and Japan, the quadrupling of the world’s 80-plus population in the first half of this century will change social life as we know it. Sanyai writes:

“This rapid aging demographic will directly affect social, economic and health outcomes for these growing economies. Particularly healthcare delivery pathways need to be readjusted, keeping in mind the prevalence of chronic diseases, comorbidities and polypharmacy requirements of the elderly and geriatric patients. Geriatric diseases such as atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes, dementia and osteoarthritis require quick diagnosis and continuous supervision by a professional caregiver. This is coupled with the fact that we are not training enough physicians and caregivers to account for the increased demands of healthcare. The US will face a shortage of between 40,800 and 104,900 physicians by 2030.”

Sanyai suggests that artificial intelligence systems–on pace, according to Accenture, to boost the global economy by $14 trillion in the next 15 years–may emerge as a brightspot in resetting healthcare pathways for the elderly, to offload some of shocks to an already stressed healthcare system.

The research and discovery alliance announced between the world’s No. 1 home building firm, Osaka, Japan-based Sekisui House, and MIT’s Institute of Medical Engineering and Science, gives a fast-forward look at where AI and care of a rapidly aging population intertwine.

The MIT IMES has set up a program to advance in-home wellness monitoring and Early Detection Systems (EDS). Called “The Sekisui House at MIT”—program participants will research development of technologies that will have a positive impact on the organizations, ecosystems, and global societies challenged to care for the expanding needs of the aging. MIT will house a multi-purpose lab facility, outfitted with embedded sensors designed to sense low profile, ambient signals, gold standard diagnostics, and high precision research grade sensors for establishing diagnostic targets and health baselines.

The venture will collaborate around specific themes and needs, answer key questions—via targeted projects designed to collect clinically relevant evidence—and generate significant technology innovations. The program will be staffed and operated by clinicians, researchers, and technical instructors, while fostering educational and global exchange between disparate communities, all while highlighting efforts in medical and observational research. The broader MIT community will be engaged with annual workshops and calls for proposals, as well as nominations for faculty and students to join programs surrounding specific themes.

Earlier this year, Sekisui House announced plans for its new home-as-a-service business model—expected to find its way into 100 new homes a month in Japan in 2020—at CES in Las Vegas. A press statement detailing Sekisui House’s Platform House notes:

“The Platform House Concept aims to dramatically change the industry model of housing. The services are planned to start in line with the 60th anniversary of Sekisui House’s founding in Spring 2020. At Sekisui House, we believe that the house should be a platform for happiness in the so-called 100-year generation in Japan.

“The Platform House will use resident data as a base to develop and recommend services for creating intangible assets such as health, connections, and learning, while also being a sturdy and adaptive residence. In line with our vision to ‘make home the happiest place in the world’ the Platform House will assist the happiness of the 100-year generation.

“The first step in our efforts is health. By dividing health into 3 groups; emergency response, health monitoring over time, and preventitive care; we can provide a new value to the residents.”

In Japan, Sekisui House struck alliances–for IOT, services, and data utilization–with AIST, Hitachi, Faculty of Science and Technology, Keio University, Keio University Hospital, Konica-Minolta, NEC, and NTT Comware to begin its pilot of Platform House services with new single-family homes.

The newly-forged relationship with MIT is sign Sekisui House is escalating and extending plans for its investment in a similar platform of services in North America, keeping pace with the firm’s real estate development and construction commitments here.

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