Deakin University is exploring how ‘smart’ materials can be used in home care systems to help elderly people stay safer in their homes.

Researchers in Deakin’s Mediated Intelligence in Design (MInD) Lab are working with Imagine, a Geelong-based innovator of intelligent materials, to investigate the application of graphene sensing surfaces on walls and floors inside buildings.

MInD Lab Director Professor Tuba Kocaturk, from Deakin’s School of Architecture and Built Environment, said graphene coatings with ultra-thin sensors could report on events like changes in temperature, pressure and humidity, just like human skin.

“With these coatings, the surface becomes ‘smart’ and information captured through these surfaces is then delivered into an Internet of Things (IoT) connected world through cloud computing,” Professor Kocaturk said.

“It will allow operators to collate and analyse data from large surfaces in buildings simultaneously and develop efficient responses in real-time, with the potential to significantly advance efficiency and safety in our buildings.

“We are currently looking to establish test floors on a number of locations including the MInD Lab at Deakin University’s Waterfront campus.”

Imagine CEO Chris Gilbey said there were broad applications for the use of the data.

“Intelligent materials are already used widely in the mining, automotive and aerospace industries but there is limited understanding of the potential for this technology inside public and private buildings,” Mr Gilbey said.

“We are exploring how this technology can be used to create an intelligent home care system so that behavioural information can be recorded, analysed and shared in real-time.”

The project is working with the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and a global expert in medical and health-care research.

MInD Lab Research Fellow, Dr Rui Wang, said her own ageing parents were among a growing population of older people living in China without in-home family support.

“In China there will be 118 million ’empty nesters’ by 2020 and their health and wellbeing is a major concern to their children and society,” Dr Wang said.

“A graphene sensing smart floor could detect falls or spills, and notify families or nearby hospitals in case of emergency,” she said.


Image: Chris Gilbey from Imagine Intelligent Materials and Professor Tuba Kocaturk from the Deakin University MInD Lab present their shared vision for smart materials at the 2019 Regional Innovation Summit, part of the Victorian Governments Digital Innovation Festival.