Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) have been leading research to develop a novel device, that uses LED lighting, to convey the position of (or 'track') a person indoors. In 2015, the DHI collaborated with GCU to explore whether such a device could be used to help people living with dementia.

We employed a design-led approach to generate a pool of user experiences, needs and wishes, and shared realistic scenarios with our participants, to allow them to reflect on the proposed use and potential of the tracking device.

Our key findings highlighted the important and preferred role of informal carers in responding to system alerts. We also identified  potential benefits of making the data captured accessible to the person living with dementia, and their loved ones, to support positive and motivational use of the insights gained into daily life.

Image credit: Louise Mather

DHI Digital Health and Care


The population of Scotland is rapidly ageing and, within the group of over 65's, there are over 83,000 people with dementia, according to Alzheimer Scotland.

One of the prominent problems for people with dementia is that they can get lost or become disorientated. Knowing the accurate position of the person with dementia is important for safety, and can also support better management of the condition through classification of ‘episodes’ of dementia. The main challenge that GCU therefore wish to address is to achieve monitoring of a person, or motion behavioural status in real-time, from a remote location.

GCU propose a solution that is lightweight, easy to install, and relatively cheap to deploy and run. The solution utilises LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting, which is currently being installed in many homes due to its rapid drop in price, excellent colour rendering, and LED longevity and energy efficiency. The solution utilises the fact that LEDs blink rapidly (this is imperceptible to a human eye) and that this blinking can be modulated to transmit data in the range of tens of megabits per second.

GCU propose using a wearable sensor to convey position information based on the LED location.

Key Findings

The introduction of new technology or support at an early stage of dementia, therefore supporting later familiarity, is important for a person living with dementia. Familiarity with interfaces could also help to reduce any cognitive load or potential confusion when using the system.

Routine should be an important consideration when designing the sensor artefact, because our participants told us that accessories could be easily forgotten.

Understanding the support that the user will receive by using the system is key to their acceptance and provided reassurance. It is of utmost importance to clearly present who will respond to the information provided by the system, and what the support will be like. Our participants placed the value of the potential support received through the system above their initial concerns about privacy.


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