Near&Dear preserves the independence and autonomy of caregivers and patients through the use of wearable technology. It provides emotional relief and peace of mind in the face of illness by indicating patient status in a readily understood format and offering a simple means of direct communication.
Feeling helpless is inherent when confronting illness, but can be diminished through perceptions of knowledge, control, and freedom. Near&Dear allows users to monitor their loved ones when apart, freeing both parties to maintain their normal lifestyles. Caregivers are afforded peace of mind, knowing they will be alerted immediately in the event of an emergency, while patients are reassured by the constant connection to their loved one.
The system includes a wearable component, a base unit, and an app. Near&Dear’s components are designed for two different audiences – caregiver and care receiver – yet they exist within the same product system. A pure aesthetic with simple, geometric forms is consistent across all elements. Patients wear a bracelet that is visually non-intimidating and requires little to no interaction. After installing the base unit in the patient’s home to receive data collected on the bracelet, caregivers download the Near&Dear app to review data and control the system remotely. When the bracelet is not in proximity to the base unit, Near&Dear locates patients via GPS and a network of nearby caregivers. Patient identification is also stored on the bracelet in case of emergency or confusion.
This bracelet discreetly tracks vitals in real time and uses the base unit to send activity and health patterns over time to the caregiver’s app. Physiometric sensors track heart rate, temperature, and blood pressure in real time, while an accelerometer monitors activity levels to indicate movement and exercise – or lack thereof. Near&Dear also assesses quality of sleep and visually indicates when a patient is awake or asleep. All of this data is stored over time, so it can be referenced later by the caregiver.
The Near&Dear app is structured with a top-down approach, emphasising the most important information at the highest level and allowing the caretaker to delve deeper as needed. The home screen provides an overview for each patient being cared for, any alerts for dimensions being tracked, as well as whether the patient is asleep or awake. Selecting a patient breaks down his or her status with summaries of activity levels, vitals, location, sleep, and reminders for the day, all in a single screen.
Every dimension can be examined further by expanding the section and interacting with any relevant information and charts, such as a breakdown of the different types of activity during the day or any moments of unrest throughout the night. Alternately, a history function allows exploration of these dimensions over time, providing insight into general activity patterns and behaviours. Prompted by this data, users can create customisable reminders to be pushed to primary or secondary caregivers, or to the patient’s bracelet, where colour e-ink technology displays icon-based messages and reminders.
The wearable charges every two weeks on the base unit via induction. This task is likely completed by the caregiver, as Near&Dear is not intended to promote negligence but ease times when a caregiver simply cannot be with the patient.
Near&Dear strengthens the bond between caregiver and patient even when apart by easing stress and facilitating direct communication. A single tactile button places a call from wearable to phone, while caregivers can call directly from app to wearable so that patients are no longer required to manipulate and hold a phone. Near&Dear enables constant availability for both individuals, even without requiring a full conversation: simple heart icons are a simple way to say “thinking of you”. In addition to direct communication, Near&Dear fosters a sense of propinquity (referring to the physical or psychological proximity between two people) to ease both caregiver guilt and patient anxiety during separation.
By reliably monitoring the patient, organising data, and prompting time-related actions, Near&Dear lifts some responsibility from the caregiver. Collected information is carefully translated into actionable items for the appropriate audiences. The system facilitates a support system by allowing primary caregivers to add secondary caregivers to the network, sharing the burden. Ultimately, caregivers are enabled to care for themselves even while maintaining a high level of care for their loved ones.
Insight Product Development, United States
Team lead: Alisa Rantanen
Designers: Antonio Belton, Edward Cox, Miguel Martinez