MediaTek to provide 'surfboards' for the IoT wave
By Gabey Goh July 1, 2015
- Demoed an Elderly Care System built on its LinkIt development platform
- LinkIt aimed at developers interested in building IoT prototypes
IT is estimated that the elderly population (above 64 years of age) in Singapore will reach 600,000 by 2020 and 900,000 by 2030.
It’s no wonder then that using technology to improve the lives of senior citizens is a key area of focus for the country’s Smart Nation initiative.
One such solution was demonstrated by MediaTek and Hutcabb Consulting at the IoT Asia Exhibition and Conference back in April – an ‘Elderly Care System’ which focuses on fall detection and assistance.
HutCabb is a Singapore-headquartered IT services provider.
According to Ku Chung-Chiang, general manager of MediaTek Singapore, the solution was also showcased to Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, during the event.
Ku claimed that the Fall Identification Protocol Support (FIPS) used by the Elderly Care System is the “first of its kind” fall detection wearable solution with automatic messaging to be available in Asia Pacific.
“A number of trials are taking place in Singapore, and more institutions in the region are expected to participate in testing the product,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) via email.
“The solution utilises our LinkIt development platform. It is very easy to use and has quite a number of APIs (application programming interfaces) available.
“We bridged HutCabb to a system integrator in Taiwan and the first prototype was made available for demonstration in IoT Asia,” he added.
The solution leverages on wearable bands equipped with sensors to detect movement. Once a fall has been detected, it will send out a signal via the cloud to alert designated caregivers with a pre-installed mobile application.
According to Ku, most devices available in the market today carry a ‘panic button’ which is used by the user to call for help. However, in some cases the person who has fallen may not be able to trigger the alert.
“The biggest learning from the product development process for FIPS was to understand what constitutes ‘a fall.’ To do so, besides talking to medical experts, we executed the ‘fall motion’ from a variety of positions, including walking, running, sitting and sleeping amongst others.
“It was pivotal to understand the fall motion. Through multiple experiments, we gathered and derived the logic algorithms to determine the verification of a fall,” he added.
Ku said that while there are several research papers on the study of fall detection, they remain an academic discussion. In reality, the volume of data collected requires a more practical, yet simpler, set of intelligence to validate the certainty of a fall.
“A major discovery in the experiments was finding that a fall consists of an abrupt change in physical attributes, in combination with a distinct disruption in bio-sensory information,” he said.
Ready for takeoff
Asked about potential barriers to adoption, Ku (pic) said that solutions utilising existing infrastructure have been around for a while already.
“So the infrastructure technology is already quite mature and robust. Hence, we do not feel technology is one of the barriers,” he said.
Ku said that the Elderly Care System is still under development, but added that MediaTek is already receiving enquiries from various government organisations.
“We do hope that once the solution is ready, interest from more government healthcare organisations in trials or pilot runs will pick up – and this will really help the adoption of the solution and as an endorsement of our capabilities,” he said.
MediaTek is confident that in addition to fall detection, a prevention mechanism can be included to mitigate the risk of subsequent fall activities.
“Besides using FIPS for the elderly at home, FIPS is expected to be deployed in industries in which physical safety is of paramount importance – such as construction and mining, as well as industries which require ‘lone workers’,” Ku said.
Riding the IoT wave
According to IDC, the Internet of Things (IoT) market size in Asia Pacific excluding Japan (APeJ) will grow from US$408 billion in 2013 to US$862 billion in 2020, a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 11.3%.
The research firm also expects significant growth in the number of autonomous intelligent/ embedded systems – or ‘things’ – that will connect to the Internet, with the number in APeJ growing from 2.59 billion in 2013 to 8.98 billion in 2020.
Hsinchu, Taiwan-based MediaTek, founded in 1997, currently has 25 offices worldwide including a presence in China, India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.
The fabless semiconductor company provides system-on-chip solutions for wireless communications, and is positioning itself as a connected device solutions provider.
The LinkIt development platform, upon which its Elderly Care System is built, was launched late last year. It is aimed at the growing number of developers interested in building prototypes in the fast-growing IoT space.
This follows other tech vendors that have created development platforms for wearables and the IoT, such as Intel, ARM, Broadcom and Qualcomm – all offering developers a package of hardware and software they can use to more quickly bring products to market.
Ku said that MediaTek is identifying key products in its portfolio that represent significant developer-related opportunities.
“The company recognises that developers are a source of new device categories and next-generation customers.
“The key areas are smart home devices such as appliances, [devices for] smart cities, wearable devices, and emerging industrial and enterprise IoT usage.
“We also foresee the technology being extended, with huge opportunities in automotive, commercial and industrial applications,” he added.
Ku said that its MediaTek Labs unit, which was also launched last year, can foster new product and service concept creation and introduction to the market by providing hardware and software kits, technical documents and support, from “an organisation dedicated to the global long tail of innovation and entrepreneurship.”
One particular area which Ku believes will have its renaissance in the IoT era is the traditional watch industry, which has been under pressure as more consumers turn to the handphone for keeping track of time.
“We see wearables as restoring some of the growth opportunity back into the watch category, as the industry seeks new and innovative benefits tied to having a screen, and additional functionality wearable on the person.
“The form factor of the wearable will be diverse as a segment, with some perhaps being glasses, shoes or gloves, and others taking more traditional shapes like watches or bands,” he added.
Positioning itself as a friendly ecosystem partner “to all kind of IoT applications and services providers,” MediaTek looks forward to enabling the innovation that comes from the thousands of third-party companies, Ku declared.
“They will bring their creativity, development skill and passion to forging new device categories that build demand and adoption for the wearables segment – and we will continue building comprehensive technology portfolios on wireless connectivity and low-power technologies which are essential to the success of IoT,” he added.
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