RESNA 26th International Annual Confence

Technology & Disability: Research, Design, Practice & Policy

June 19 to June 23, 2003
Atlanta, Georgia


Justiss, M.D, Mann, W.C.,.Helal, S., Dasler, P. & Richardson, R.
University of Florida and Honeywell International 


The Independent LifeStyle Assistant (ILSA) is an intelligent home automation system that will enable elders as well as younger people with disabilities to live and function safely at home. The system design will also increase social contact and information exchange between subject and caregiver/family member. With the growing number of elders who live alone, more research is needed to ascertain the ability of this technology to make a positive difference in the quality of life and functional independence of older adults and ease caregiver burden.


The Independent LifeStyle Assistant (ILSA) is under development by Honeywell International, and is being tested in a collaborative research effort with the University of Florida Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Technology for Successful Aging (RERC-Tech-Aging). The goal is to develop an intelligent home automation system to enable elders as well as younger people with disabilities to live and function safely at home. Honeywell and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) jointly fund this program. The program is designed to advance home automation, software reasoning, user-interface design, and machine learning technologies in the context of elder home-care. Beta testing of the system is being conducted in the homes of 10 elders in north central Florida.


As early as 1988, "smart homes" were described as featuring a single integrated wiring system that replaced conventional wiring to provide a distribution of power and information transfer to household appliances. By plugging household appliances into any outlet in the house, a switch could then be designated to operate the appliance. The concept of "Smart House" resulted from a collaboration of manufacturers including electric, electronic and gas fuel dealers, industry groups, and the National Association of Home Builders. Advisory groups for the implementation of the smart house features included public agencies such as Administration on Aging, Veteran's Administration, and Consumer Product Safety Commission.1

Today, "smart houses" are equipped with features such as: video security system with infrared wireless zones; home theater; DVD, CD, and Internet access throughout the home; DSL connection; satellite TV; and lighting control. Access and operation of a majority of the system features can be executed through the use of simple remote controls. A PC acts as the control center of the home and is connected with all of the electronics, supporting communication between the electronics. Options include prewiring the home with Category 5 wiring cable that allows up to 100 Mbs data rates, or wireless options.2 Studies have been conducted on the cost effectiveness of increaseing the ability of elders to continue to live in their own home.3 Technology such as home-health monitoring systems, "smart houses", emergency response systems, and computers, have been suggested to decrease the need for placement in assisted living facilities or nursing homes. Other studies suggest that remote monitoring of health status, thereby enabling timely implementation of appropriate care, could decrease the rate of morbidity among elders.4 Implications for the use of home monitoring systems are increased opportunity for independent living, living in place for elders and individuals with degenerative conditions, and remote health monitoring.5

The next generation of smart houses will integrate all aspects of home monitoring and communications. They will be capable of providing monitoring of the home environment, one's activity in the home, assistance with self-care and health related needs.


The ILSA system will include situation awareness and decision-making capability that can be easily integrated with a diverse set of sensors, medical devices and "smart" appliances to enable older people with disabilities to live independently and safely at home. ILSA is expected to help elders maintain a safe living environment, interact with home service providers (grocery delivery, cleaning, shopping, etc.), and stay connected with their communities--family, friends, neighbors, and doctors--from home. ILSA will benefit both formal and informal caregivers, while positively promoting quality of life for the elder. Using sensor inputs, a model of the home, and information about the occupant's needs, habits, and preferences, ILSA is being designed to:


The RERC-Tech-Aging is beta testing ILSA in the homes of 10 elders in Florida. The subjects live alone and have an identifiable family caregiver with a computer with internet access.


Subjects are evaluated for health, functional, and psychosocial status using the SF-36 Health Survey (Version 1.0) and the Mini Mental Status Exam (MMSE). Subjects with an MMSE score < 24 are excluded from the program. The ILSA system is installed in their homes, they are trained in its use, and subject/caregiver use of the system is monitored for three months. The subjects also receive a Lifeline emergency response system. Initially the focus is on the operation of the system in different homes: Is it working? Is it providing appropriate responses? How might individual components be improved? We also monitor elder and caregiver satisfaction with ILSA, including individual components. We will re-evaluate elder health, functional, and psychosocial status at the end of the year, and compare the sample to a sample of matched controls identified through the Study Participant Recruitment Core.


We expect that this state-of-the-science system, ILSA, will be valued by elders and their caregivers, and it will impact positively on their overall health, functional, and psychosocial status. The beta testing of this type of technology should provide information on the effectiveness of the system to adequately and accurately provide valuable health information to a family member.


  1. Sampson, B. (1988). Smart house. In Lesnoff, Caravaglia, & Gari (Eds.), Aging in a technological society (pp. 54-57). New York, NY: Human Sciences Press.
  2. Bannan, K. (2001, February 6). Digital Domiciles. PC Magazine, 141.
  3. Tang, P., & Venebles, T. (1999). Smart homes and telecare for independent living.
    Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, 6: 8-14.
  4. Celler, B.G., Lovell, N.H., Hesketh, T., Ilsar, E.D., Earnshaw, W., Betbeder-Matibet, L., (1995). Remote monitoring of health status of the elderly. Medinfo. 8(1), 615-619.
  5. Cooper, M. & Keating, D. (1996). Implications of the emerging home systems technologies for rehabilitation. Medical Engineering and Physics, 18(3), 176-180.


This study will be funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, Honeywell International and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Michael Justiss, MOT, OTR/L
Department of Occupational Therapy, College of Health Professions
University of Florida
PO Box 100164
Gainesville, FL 32610-0164
(352) 846-1018
Fax (352) 846-1042 

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