The trial of a new barcode tagging system for tracking elderly dementia sufferers and those at risk of getting lost is under way in Tokyo.
Stickers on Toenails
The new, free tagging system uses special 1cm (0.4in) square stickers which can be attached to a person’s toenail and are designed to stay on for 2 weeks. If the sticker was attached to items of clothing or badges for example, as well as not being discreet, there is a risk that clothing items could be left behind when the person goes out. The water-resistant stickers have QR codes which hold the address, telephone number and a unique identity number for the user.
All this means that if the person is picked up by police, a simple scan of the code will reveal contact telephone numbers, all relevant personal details, plus the location of the person’s local city hall. The benefits of this scheme are clear: saved time in getting the person back to their loved ones/their carers which means less stress and upset for the dementia sufferer, less stress and worry for family and friends. It also means some savings in costs and resources.
The last (2015) census revealed the extent of a challenge that Japan is now facing. Over 26% of the country’s population is now over the age of 65. This is the highest level since 1920, and experts believe that this number will grow to 40% by 2060.
These figures mean that the barcode tagging system could prove to be a very relevant and important idea for now and into the future for Japan.
There have already been other ideas and initiatives in Japan which have been designed to help with different aspects of the challenges of an ageing population.
Japan’s state-owned Post Group is an organisation that runs post offices, banks, and insurance services across the country. Post Group also provides a national Watch Over service. This service provides checks on elderly citizens for a small fee.
One other high profile initiative from last year was an alliance between Apple and IBM who teamed up Post Group with the aim of delivering iPads (with IBM-developed apps and analytics) to five million customers in Japan by the year 2020. The IBM apps on the iPads will give reminders and alerts about medications, exercise, and diet. They will also provide access to community activities and support services such as grocery shopping and job matching.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
As well as the UK also facing ageing population challenges (and the direct relevance of this story as a result), security and tracking tagging technology of this kind could have many applications across multiple sectors in the UK.
In terms of the story’s direct relevance to health in the UK, there are over 850,000 people living with dementia, and as well as the terrible human suffering it causes, is estimated to cost the UK £26 billion a year.
There are therefore opportunities for UK technology businesses and start-ups to develop products for the health sector which could help the UK to meet its own challenges by providing valuable help to sufferers and relatives/carers, and reducing care costs as well as making the best use of resources.