There’s a dilemma for people who need residential care and for their families and loved ones.

On one hand it is important for their morale, dignity and rehabilitation that they should enjoy as great a degree of independence as possible.

Yet, those who are living with brain or spinal conditions are, by definition, vulnerable.

For their own safety and for the peace of mind of their families and carers, they require monitoring to a greater or lesser extent.

Monitoring, however, is something which undermines, or even negates, independence.

Fortunately, modern technology is allowing the development of systems which enable remote monitoring, allowing a person to live on their own but which alerts a carer, relative or any other nominated body when anything arises that might indicate a problem.

One such system is VEMS (pictured), developed by husband and wife team Martin and Antonia Bradford.

Initially their target market was the elderly, but it soon became apparent that VEMS was a valuable tool in the care of all vulnerable people.

Antonia, who has a master’s degree in computer science and Martin, an electronics engineer, developed VEMS over two years ago through a combination of their professional experience, a hobby and family circumstance.

Antonia explains: “The whole thing started when we built a little monitor for our boat to check that the electricity was working and there were no leaks and so on.

“The thing was working beautifully then suddenly my mother-in-law had a fall, then I said to my husband, ‘what we need is a boat monitor but for your mother’.

“So we started developing it and within a few weeks we had a very early prototype in her house.’’

Last year Martin’s mother had a stroke, but, fortunately, VEMS alerted them that something was wrong.

“We don’t know whether our early response saved her life or not, but the point is that we knew straight away that there was something amiss even though we were not close by,’’ says Antonia.

“We managed to get someone to get help to her and she recovered very well.’’

VEMS monitors movement, temperature and humidity; data which is captured by a monitor and relayed to a cloud-based server where an engine builds a statistical model of the customer’s behaviour.

Antonia says: “The system generates readings and if it thinks that a number is significantly different to what it is expecting, it starts to raise concerns. It builds the level of concern and when it gets to a certain point it sends a notification to the mobiles of the nominated people.’’

A carer can log into the system at any time to check on the wellbeing of any of their customers.

“You put the sensor unit in the room, you connect it to the home WIFI and then you forget about it. You just live normally. It’s very simple to use, with all the complexity up in the cloud.

“We wanted to make sure that it was accessible to people of all abilities and most importantly for all pockets.”

Currently they are looking for 30 volunteers to trial VEMS.

Antonia says: “The participants will have the service free of charge for three months and if they decide to stay with the service they can keep the sensor with our compliments, but if they’re not happy, they return the sensor and we will cancel the subscription. It would cost them nothing.’’

For more information, visit www.vixenelectronics.co.uk

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