Wednesday, 12 June 2013

(Google) ‘Now’ there is something new for people with dementia

For many younger people, after a long drinking session on a Friday or Saturday, if they find that they are lost or unsure how to get home what do they do?  Most will turn to their Smartphone to call for help or to find out where they are.

For people with reduced capacity there has always been a push to develop reminder and location aware devices to reorientate them. These have included some great telecare devices such as Buddi ( and services such as Telecare Technology ( who provide a range of reminder services.  The services and devices if use correctly could help a person remember their medication or important dates/times or assist a lost or confused person.

Google Now on my Nexus 4

What is exciting is the development of a completely new free system from an old system. Google Now ( is just such a system. Google Now is the new Google search feature designed for Android mobile Smartphones but also available for iPhone and iPad.

Google Now is more than just an entree to the world’s number one search engine, it uses the data already collected by your Smartphone to determine your location and can synch with your Google calendar and other Google apps to assist you through your day.  

One feature that stands out is the constant monitoring of the phone’s location.  For a burglar this might not be ideal for Google to monitor your location 24/7 and for people paranoid about privacy this might also seem a little zealous, but the advantage is that when you go somewhere, Google Now will tell you how long it takes to get how and how far it is.  It can also link in with your recent searches and suggest places locally you might have searched for or it considers you might want to know about.  To illustrate this, I was shopping last weekend in an area I rarely visit, and had previously been searching for a DIY store as I needed something from it. Whilst shopping I looked at my phone and it told me that I has thirty miles from home and that a branch of the DIY store I had previously searched for, before I left the house, was only a minute away.  Thus I killed two birds with one stone and went to the DIY store after I finished shopping.

Google Now integrates with other Google apps and services

This got me thinking about the other applications of Google Now and the most obvious one was for people with dementia. Google Now maps your routines and places you go and integrates with other Google apps such as email, maps, calendar, tasks etc.  This therefore presents an opportunity to build in simple reminders to a dairy to take medication which can be done in the calendar.  Google Maps, for those that use it for directions and navigation will already know that this has the ability to be programmed to where you live and take you home.  If Google know where you live then it can reorientate people who get lost.  It provides turn by turn navigation for walkers which I have used in many large cities when I have been for a meeting.

For a person with dementia Google Now provides a non patronising way or providing location based services and reminders both of a daily routine and medication. It would not be difficult to add in alerts to call friends and family to the system so that if a person was “out of zone” or potentially lost the family could be notified by SMS or even Google Hangout and open up an online face to face conversation with the person.

Google Now purportedly learns from you.  It logs where you go and what you do on your phone and links in with other apps to find your likes and dislikes.  In time and with use, it should be a very good source of help. It is not too difficult to see that even though Google Now is relatively new, and I would suggest in its infancy, there is a real opportunity to develop this service for people who in the future who will get dementia or some other health issue. Most importantly it has the potential to put the person in control of what is monitored and the correct response.

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