Seniors represent a growing portion of our population, and one of the most pressing needs is to find ways to help them continue to live independently yet safely. Caregivers and family members need to be able to monitor seniors for sudden or gradual physical or cognitive impairments that could put them at risk, such as a physical fall or an illness. Many wearables — including personal emergency response systems — are notoriously unreliable. People tend not to wear them, and even if they do, they fail to summon help even when they need assistance. As a result, passive systems are likely to be a better solution. Some systems rely on inference from radio waves, such as technology developed by Vayyar that can see through walls.

A new Kickstarter campaign hopes to launch a new device called the Welbi. It looks like a smartphone without a display, and it can track heart rate, respiration, and heart rate variability. The data is sent to a smartphone app, which can be monitored by family members, caregivers, or healthcare professionals. The beauty of the system is that it does not require that the subject wear or carry a separate device. The current design only works within the space of a single room, though the company has plans for multiple room coverage.

The Kickstarter campaign has an ambitious goal of $150,000, and the product is expected to sell for $249 when it is scheduled to ship next summer. As with any crowd-funded campaign, meeting their goal is still no guarantee of success. The good news is that this is likely just one of many devices that will use radio frequency (RF) emissions to track activity and vital signs in the home, which should make aging-in-place much safer for our aging population.