January 4, 2008 7:03 AM PST

Elderly to benefit from 'fuzzy logic' research

Technology aimed at improving care and quality of life for the elderly will receive a boost from a major project looking at computational intelligence.

This month, the University of Missouri and De Montfort University, in Leicester, England, will begin collaborating on an $87,300 six-month project to develop "fuzzy logic" technology.

Fuzzy logic uses computational mathematics to reach conclusions based on vague information, replicating human decision making.

A research fellow at DMU's Centre for Computational Intelligence, Simon Coupland, described fuzzy logic as making things "to an extent grey."

The technique has already been used in a number of applications, but Coupland said the project's researchers will now focus on quality of life for the elderly.

The Centre for Computational Intelligence will work with the University of Missouri's Center for Eldercare and Rehabilitation Technology, which has carried out extensive research on sensor technology.

Specially developed sensors can monitor people's movements, capture sleep patterns, or measure pulse and respiration, making them useful in identifying medical emergencies or diagnosing health problems.

Using the information gathered by the sensors, for example, fuzzy logic will be able to distinguish between similar-sounding but disparate events such as someone falling over and a door slamming, therefore reducing the number of false alarms.

Avoiding the use of cameras so as not to intrude on people's everyday lives, the technology relies instead on silhouette images and audio information.

"One of the big things is to do this without impeding on their personal life," Coupland said. "We've got to be careful how we use this."

Coupland will travel to the U.S. and work for four months with Jim Keller--a world expert in fuzzy logic--to help refine the technology.

"We hope to have a prototype system running by the end of the project," Coupland said.

But he added that it will probably be another five years before the technology is extensively tested, approved, and implemented widely.

Professor Robert John, director of the Centre for Computational Intelligence, said this kind of technology will play an important role in allowing people to lead more active lives in the future, with less dependence on social care.

The project has been funded by the U.K.'s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Tim Ferguson of Silicon.com reported from London.

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