Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans, according to the National Council on Aging. In long term care facilities, falls often happen at night, when unattended residents get out of bed in the dark. For years, the healthcare industry has been experimenting with technologies that address this problem. One solution is a wearable sensor that activates a camera when residents get up. To protect privacy, the camera in the room sends caregivers blurry images so that they cannot see exactly what residents are doing, but they can see whether they are in bed, sitting, standing or on the floor.
Park Stanislaus in The Netherlands is the site of an eldercare facility using this technology on a private LTE network developed by Druid Software and Corning, who were recognized by the Small Cell Forum for excellence in enterprise commercial deployment. Their Dutch channel partner was Avics B.V., a healthcare technology specialist. The network was deployed in the 1800 MHz spectrum band, some of which is available in the Netherlands for private wireless networks.
Druid’s Raemis core network software was deployed in a data center alongside Corning’s SpiderCloud services node. “Avics offers a software-as-service model, so it made sense for them to put all this in the data center and run radio nodes and devices at the edge,” said Druid’s Tadhg Kenny, the company’s head of vertical solutions and marketing.
The equipment at the eldercare facility includes Corning/SpiderCloud radio nodes, smartphones for staff, cameras, nurse call devices and patient wearable devices, Kenny said. Caregivers use a smartphone app to receive alerts when a patient needs help. They can also see when another caregiver has already responded, which increases staff efficiency.
According to Druid and Avics, the connected sensor solution results in fewer false alarms compared to other fall detection technologies, meaning better sleep for residents and more job satisfaction for caregivers. The advantages of private LTE for this application include security of patient data and assured availability of bandwidth for critical communications.
Private LTE and network slicing
Eldercare facilities are often constructed with adjacent hospitals. In these settings, network slicing technology may be highly applicable, because different user groups need different service level agreements. In a private LTE network with a dedicated core, separate gateways can create network slices for different use cases, such as patient monitoring, communication between care providers and tracking of medication dispenser carts.
Alternatively, a service provider could carve out a network slice, creating one private and one public slice of a premises-based network. Ericsson predicts that companies will soon be able to commission a slice of a public network to serve their private network needs. In a recent blog post, the vendor compared network slices to roads with bike lanes which allow more than one type of traffic to move along the same path at different speeds.