New technologies open a new frontier in assistive technology
The field of remote monitoring for the disabled is undergoing a startling transformation, driven by a new range of devices and technologies. These remote monitoring devices differ from other assistive technology devices in that they go beyond assisting with specific tasks and offer the opportunity for a more comprehensively independent lifestyle. With the aid of this supportive technology, the disabled person will have more opportunity to stay safely in their home while interacting with their loved ones.
Beyond the basics
Remote monitoring should not be a passive process. A complete remote monitoring system will include cameras and allow easy-to-use two-way communication. The ideal is not to simply observe the disabled person but to allow them to interact in a very personal way with their families and caregivers, ensuring their safety and fostering a deeper sense of connection to loved ones.
There’s no one best system for each disabled person. When trying out remote monitoring devices, inquire about trial periods for the system you want to test so you can see if it meets the needs of the disabled person.
When putting together this list of remote monitoring devices for disabled persons, we honed in on features that we consider useful or essential in promoting independent living and in assisting communication.
- Cameras. Remote cameras for disabled persons are an important part of monitoring. These remote monitoring devices all feature cameras that can be utilized for either monitoring, video calling, or both.
- Two-way communication. The capability of carrying out a remote two-way conversation, whether by video chat or just audio, is a necessity.
- Motion and noise detection. These allow notifications to loved ones if unexpected motion or noises are detected.
- Mobile app compatibility. Access to the monitoring device from mobile apps lets family members monitor the disabled person’s home with their phone or tablet.
- Voice control. Voice control of the device can allow the disabled person to more easily establish communication, or allow the use of other virtual assistant features the device may incorporate.
- Wireless connectivity. Devices should easily connect to existing networks for ease of use and to eliminate expensive wiring.
Here’s a quick overview of some products that have real potential as remote communication devices for disabled people. Hopefully these devices will give you a starting point in deciding what features you need and what devices will work best for your circumstances.
Overview: Nucleus’ marketing pitch is “the perfect intercom” for every home. But it’s quite a bit more capable than that. The Nucleus system is based around an Alexa-enabled touchpad with a built-in camera, 8-inch screen, and stereo speakers. A wall mount and desk stand is included, and the pads operate over your Wi-Fi network or Ethernet. You can use the camera to check in to any location covered by the Nucleus, although there is a privacy function to turn the camera off.
- Pros: Nucleus features a simple and intuitive interface and easy expandability. Mobile devices can use the system by adding a free app.
- Cons: Alexa functions are limited to control of the device. For example, it won’t work with any music services you may subscribe to.
- Pricing: Individual units are currently selling for about $150. Nucleus offers a 90-day free return policy.
Bottom Line: This is a true two-way system that goes beyond monitoring. Contact can be initiated at either end, allowing the disabled person to be an interactive part of family communication. Positive customer reviews for Nucleus tout the easy one-touch contact feature, particularly helpful for communicating with elderly parents. On the negative side, some reviewers are less than satisfied with the sound video quality. But if your goal is easy communication Nucleus is worth looking into.
Overview: Ring sells a variety of camera solutions for home security and monitoring. The Stick Up Cam is designed as a comprehensive wireless home security system that can accommodate multiple cameras whose feeds you monitor with the Ring app. Stick Up Cams stream wide-angle HD video with night vision and they support two-way talk.
- Pros: Ring Stick Up Cams get high marks for video quality and ease of mounting. In addition, the selectably sensitive motion-sensing capabilities get high marks. It’s also easy to expand a Ring system to cover multiple rooms.
- Cons: Stick Up Cams don’t have a two-way video capability. As the viewer you can initiate a conversation, but the disabled person being monitored can’t initiate communication.
- Pricing: Depending on features, Stick Up Cams can be priced as low as $179. Ring offers different levels of plans that allow you to record and save video footage. Ring offers a 30-day full refund on returns.
Bottom Line: If your goal is monitoring, Ring Stick Up Cams are an excellent option. But while they support two-way communication, that’s strictly limited to audio and conversation must be initiated by the viewer. If you are looking for a system that allows a higher degree of interactivity, it’s not a good choice.
Overview: Facebook Portal offers video chats and more in a Facebook-centric package. The two models – Portal and Portal Plus – both respond to voice commands to initiate video chats with others equipped with a Portal device. And if you’re not at home with your Portal, you can communicate via Facebook Messenger. In addition to the video chat capabilities, Portal can access music services and provide other video content as well.
- Pros: Portal gets high marks for picture quality and employs a smart tracking feature that will zoom in or out to capture everyone in the room. Portal+ will even swivel to track the person in its field of view.
- Cons: Portal is tied to the Facebook ecosystem – calls are routed through Facebook Messenger and you need a Facebook account to use it. If you love Facebook that’s not a problem. If you don’t, that can be a problem.
- Pricing: Portal retails for $199 and Portal Plus for $349. There are often package deals available when the two are purchased together.
Bottom Line: The high-quality video and audio and smart camera functions of Portal make it an excellent tool for video chats and check ins. Portal doesn’t allow unprompted monitoring however, so if you want 24/7 access to remote video feeds of the disabled person’s home you may want another option.
Overview: Echo Show builds upon the Alexa virtual assistant capabilities of the first Echo devices by adding a video screen. Echo Show has video chat capabilities, and the Drop In feature allows designated users to begin a call unannounced, thereby accessing the camera capabilities. Echo Show can be paired with Ring cameras, allowing remote monitoring.
- Pros: The Echo platform is tried and true, and adding video capabilities makes it more appealing.
- Cons: Monitoring capabilities aren’t a major design element.
- Pricing: Individual units sell for $229, although discounts are common.
Bottom Line: Echo Show is most useful for the virtual assistant features enabled by Alexis. Video chat allows two-way interaction, and the ability to access separate Ring cameras adds some useful remote monitoring functionality.
Overview: Lorex offers a wide range of security and monitoring cameras, including portable wireless home monitoring cameras useful for monitoring of disabled persons. Lorex cameras offer HD video, night vision, as well as sound and motion alerts. Lorex’s free app allows you to view camera feeds from smartphones or tablets.
Pros: Battery operation doesn’t require wiring.
Cons: Battery life and replacement can be an issue. Two days of cloud storage is free, but anything longer is an extra charge.
Pricing: A two-camera Lorex wireless system has a retail price of $379. Lorex offers a 60-day free return policy.
Bottom Line: Lorex sticks with the basics – monitoring combined with two-way voice communication. If all you need is the basics, the easy integration of the cameras to your tablet or smartphone make this a good choice.