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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.

Photo of Jaap van den Elzen
12 15

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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.


Join the conversation:

Photo of hudangsubuh jahari

Photo of Susan Jackewicz

Jaap, congratulations on being selected for the Short Listed Ideas! I love Kate Rushton's idea of  caregivers being able to customize the image of the Home button (I'd make it my mother's favorite flower!) RE: your statement "...we want to study more how (different) cognitive impairments influence the understanding of a 'home button'....", here's a table from a presentation at the recent US National Research Summit on Care, Services and Support for Persons with Dementia and their Caregivers that outlines the sensory deficits in different types of dementias. It might help you with the visual iterations: (This is a pdf of presentation slides. You want the 4th slide, page 2 yellow and blue chart on dementia syndrome names and early symptoms.)

Photo of Jaap van den Elzen

Dear Melanie, thank you for your valuable comment. This is exactly what we would like to achieve: to enable people with (early stage) dementia to go out on their own without getting lost, or, to overcome their possible fear of getting lost. Going outside for a walk or to run some errands is a good & healthy thing of course. Also it stimulates independency and is good for the selfesteem. Lovely to hear you already thought about a similar tool. We surely will take your remarks with us in the development & design process.

Best. Jaap

Photo of Melanie Robinson

This is absolutely needed. My father with Alzheimer's has lived with me the last 3 years and I had actually spoken to a developer about building a similar tool because my dad likes to go for walks but gets totally lost. My criteria I had thought of for the tool: Needs a long battery life so you don't have to remember to charge it every day, needs to be extremely simple with home location pre-programmed in so the user just taps one button, needs gps support so others can see where the user is in case they want to go pick him/her up.

Photo of Kate Rushton

HI Jaap,

How would you differentiate this solution from the Apple Watch?

Photo of Jaap van den Elzen

Ki Kate,

Watch me! is an application, it is not a device. So it could be used e.g. for Apple Watch (but also for all other -much more affordable- smart watches, or smartphones). There are of course a lot of GPS apps around. They all have (relatively) complex interfaces with many possibilities. We want to make an app with just one functionality on the side of the person with dementia: one press to navigate home. No difficult to understand menu's or superfluous options. This makes Watch me! unique. Helping to overcome the fear of going out just a little bit, could mean a hughe boost for independency and the selfesteem.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Jaap!

It is great to have you in the challenge. Sorry I could not get the video to load!

How does it work? Does the care recipient just press the home button and wherever they are, they will have the directions to get home? Can the 'home' be changed to something else by the caregiver?

I am tagging a few people here and ideas that you might want to connect to Isaac Jumba Prompt by Metric Generate insights using a smart bracelet Are there specific people you would like to connect to in the challenge?

Photo of Jaap van den Elzen

Hi Kate, thank you so much for your feedback. I can understand why the video is not loading since there is none ;-) that would be a great next step though - to create a few scenario's illustrating the concept.

How does it work? Does the care recipient just press the home button and wherever they are, they will have the directions to get home?
That's the basic concept indeed. We like to discuss & develop this more and do several field tests with different target groups to create the right interface. Also we want to study more how (different) cognitive impairments influence the understanding of a 'home button' and thus what it should look like graphically, to be understood by most people. We focus on early dementia. We want the person with dementia to be able to go outside easier, with less fear of getting lost. In this sense it is different from regular GPS tracking apps which are one way: they only track. In our concept there is a unique user perspective on the side of the person with dementia.

Your suggestion that the 'home' button could be changed to something else by the caregiver is great! We could create a platform on the caregivers side where they can actually change or personalize the 'home' button. The caregiver might know better than us what 'image' works best for this specific person. Maybe it's a picture of the house or a photo of the partner living with the person with dementia that works best, rather than an abstract illustration of his or her house. This is well worth testing! Thank you very much for this insight :-)

Are there specific people you would like to connect to in the challenge?
Unfortunately there hasn't been a lot of time for me to look into this yet. I will take some time tomorrow to dive in to the other concepts.

Thanks again. All my best,

Photo of Susan Jackewicz

Jaap - I like the simplicity of your design, and the straightforward way it offers directions. As a former family caregiver who watched loved ones' capacities change over time, I wonder about two things: 1) How might you best identify potential test participants, i.e. those with the need who can still cognitively understand spatial concepts and directions? 2) How might you coach caregivers to know when it's time they should no longer use your product? These might be simple questions, but what if you consulted with some of the OpenIDEO experts out there about which types of dementias might have a longer capacity to use your product, then you could identify from the beginning your best niche of dementias to target for testing. Just a thought.....

Photo of Jaap van den Elzen

Dear Susan, thank you for your constructional feedback. Both questions are extremely valid. I'll try to answer them as best as I can at this point.

1) How might you best identify potential test participants, i.e. those with the need who can still cognitively understand spatial concepts and directions?
We will discuss with professional and family caregivers which participants might be able to use the product safely in a test phase. This will be done with the greatest care and respect of all ethical considerations. The next step will be to make a working prototype and to start field testing. In the first place we will start with people of different ages, without dementia. We will put them in an environment they don't know and see if they can find the place that is 'home'. Their experiences and feedback will be valuable to make the first design iterations. Slowly we will introduce the app to elderly and the next step to people with early stage dementia.
1a) A great benefit is that we can digitally track the behavior of all different users and thus we can get a lot of valuable data to see how the product is used by different test participants. We can test several functionalities and interfaces to see how users interact with them to develop and further optimise the design.

2) How might you coach caregivers to know when it's time they should no longer use your product?
Watch me! is a two way system - most important: for the user to find their way home independently, and at the same time: for the caregiver to track a person with dementia. If a user for instance starts wandering more then necessary or goes to far away from the directions given by Watch me! an alarm can be sent to the caregiver. By being able to track the behavior of a user the caregiver can always keep a watchful eye. It should also tell them when a user is no longer able to use the product. In that stage it can become a one way tracking device where the caregiver only follows the whereabouts of their loved ones.

Watch me! is an early stage concept which needs development & testing. Your suggestion of consulting with some of the OpenIDEO experts is very welcome. Since I'm new here I have yet to find the right channels, hopefully you can assist me?

Photo of Susan Jackewicz

Jaap, Very thoughtful and thorough answers, thank you. Re: next steps, after today there's a week long Feedback stage during which the OpenIDEO team, sponsors, and advisory panel determine which ideas will be shortlisted for the Refinement phase. Those ideas will be targeted for additional collaboration to help strengthen ideas ahead of the Final Feedback phase and selection of Top Ideas. Keep working on your idea to refine what you need next!

Photo of Jaap van den Elzen

Thank you for your feedback Susan. We hope we get a chance to further develop the idea within the community. All my best, Jaap