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Watch me! App [Updated 12.20]

A compass that always points home. Enabling people with dementia to go outdoors on their own and offer space for their caregivers.

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Who is your idea designed for and how does it better support family caregivers as they care for a loved one with dementia?

Watch me! is designed for people with early-stage dementia. It supports them to overcome their fear of getting lost when going outdoors on their own, i.e. when going to the bakery. At the same time, it offers a safety net for caregivers to keep a watchful eye. Also, it provides a positive impact on self-esteem and the independence of the person with dementia. The Watch Me! App
thereby provides the opportunity for the caregiver to have more quality time with their loved one or for themselves.

Watch me! is a home finding Application for smart devices such as smartwatch and smartphone designed for people with early stage dementia and their caregivers. The concept is a follow up of the 'Homing Compass' device designed by Rens Brankaert. For more info:

The 'Homing compass' design was evaluated in context with people with dementia through a prototype, the resulting paper can be found here:

The 'Homing Compass' (concept) was designed as a standalone device, and provided the starting point for the Watch me! App. The design team translated this concept into an easy to use smart device application, that is free for everyone and thereby easier to scale and more accessible. 

Leaving home with the idea that you might get lost can be quite frightening. We aim for this app to enable people with dementia to go out by themselves. The Watch Me! App has been stripped down to just one functionality: to find your way back independently when lost. By keeping it simple, the person with dementia can still use the device on their own. This allows the caregiver some free time in their heavy 24/7 care duty, and provides them an opportunity to spend more quality time with their caregiver.

There are quite a few track & trace solutions on the market. Watch me! offers a unique human-centred perspective on the side of the person with dementia, and listened to the actual needs of the caregivers. It is not only tracking someone's whereabouts from a distance for mere controlling and safety functionality, which other providers often limit themselves to. Watch Me! enables a person with dementia to find their way back individually when getting lost, and by this overcome their fear of leaving the house. At the same time, it's reassuring for caregivers to keep a watchful eye on their loved ones if necessary. The Watch Me! Caregiver application allows them to see the location of the person with dementia, e.g. when they are out longer than expected or for example leave a pre-assigned area.

The images attached to this project show an impression of how the Watch Me! Application looks for both the person with dementia and the caregiver. The strength of the design is that it limits functionality, and can be personalized or adapted to the cognitive level of the person using it. Sometimes other products attempt this as well, but then forget to design ALSO a simple interface for the caregiver, whom are often busy or seniors themselves.

When seeing the concept, some fundamental questions might arise. Such as: Is a person with dementia able to use such a system on their own? To address this, we conducted a small field study.

We conducted a field test with in-total eight people with (early stage) dementia. They were tasked to use the compass to walk to a random point A, point B and finally go home. As a result, seven out of eight participants managed to reach their destinations without significant help.  Sometimes moments of confusion did occur, but this could be related to technical inconsistencies in the prototype. The device would point towards home in a birds-eye view. And, even faced with an ambiguous T-junction the participants showed no trouble in navigating around it. We often presume people with dementia have no abilities, hence the devices that are available on the market. By trusting in the skills people with dementia still have we can offer them all kind of solutions like the Watch Me! App.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

The design came from a collaboration between Pleyade (healthcare), the University of Technology Eindhoven (research) and Holland Art Group (creative). Together we have formed a design team to develop this concept further for people with dementia and especially their caregivers. In this team we have all expertise required to conduct a follow up field study and improve the design through an iterative process before releasing it as an application.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We would like to constantly reflect with the community on the steps taken in our iterative design process. Our goal is to come to a simple and easy to use Watch me! Application through a process of prototyping, testing, analysing, and refining. Interaction with the community can be very valuable in this approach. Each step of the design process becomes stronger by opening it up and talking to people from different expertise areas. Later, we can find other test locations in the community.

How long has your idea existed?

  • 0-3 months

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm

Tell us about your work experience:

The PIT team consists of several professionals:
- Maaike Thissen - professional caregiver at Pleyade
- Rens Brankaert - professor at TU Eindhoven
- Serge Offermans - technical & interaction designer
- Hugo Nagtzaam - designer
- Jaap van den Elzen - designer
- Tijmen Stroeken - creative mind

How would you describe this idea while in an elevator with someone?

Watch me! Is a digital compass that always points home. It supports people with (early stage) dementia to go outdoors on their own, i.e. when going to the bakery. By this it improves their independency and boosts self-esteem. At the same time, it provides a safety net for caregivers to keep a watchful eye on their loved ones. Finally, it gives them relief in the care process and creates free time.

How does your idea demonstrate our Criteria of Accessibility?

We want to facilitate accessibility in two ways. Firstly, we will provide the Application for free to everyone worldwide, for smartwatch and smartphone, on Android and iOS devices. Secondly, we will make sure via our iterative and inclusive design proces that people with dementia and caregivers are involved, and that the app remains simple and focuses for them.

How does your idea demonstrate or plan to demonstrate scalability?

The Watch me! App is based on the 'homing compass', and exactly for the reason of scalability we translated it from a standalone device into a widely available software application. This allows the functionality to be distributed easily around the world.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

We intend to evaluate the Watch me! App from both a quantitative and a qualitative perspective. We will use the quantitative evaluation to assess usefulness and effectiveness, by logging use patterns in the software and monitor the downloads. A qualitative evaluation will be used to develop the interface and conceptual design. At the same time we provide an online platform for feedback from the (user) community. These will give us ample opportunities to constantly improve the application.

What are your immediate next steps after the Challenge?

After conducting a thorough redesign iteration in close collaboration with the IDEO community, we intend to conduct a large scale test at Pleyade care organisation. After this, we improve the software, and intend to launch the Watch me! App worldwide in Google playstore (Android) & App store (iOS) as soon as possible.
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Attachments (2)


Research paper on a simple navigation device for people with dementia.

WATCH ME! update 20171215.pdf

Concept & design Watch ME! application for smart devices.


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