Top 5 Ways Enabling Technology Reaches Beyond Remote Monitoring

It's often the first conversation we have with people who are new to SimplyHome: Why do you call it enabling technology? You use sensors in your systems, so isn't this the same as remote monitoring, or monitoring technology? And adding to that confusion, sometimes the same devices – such as cameras or sensors – can be used for remote monitoring OR enabling technology. So how do we define enabling technology?

What it really comes down to is your mindset and purpose for the technology.

To help clarify these differences, SimplyHome presents the "Top 5 Ways Enabling Technology Reaches Beyond Remote Monitoring" (downloadable graphic here).


#1 Enabling technology focuses on support, while remote monitoring focuses on supervision.

Enabling technology focuses on supporting people as they create their lives – where they live, where they work, how they choose to spend their free time, what goals they have, and who they choose to be around. An example of enabling technology might be a bed pressure sensor that is able to sense whether someone has gotten up in the morning for work. If the person has not left the bed by a certain time, the person can receive a verbal cue to wake up. The technology unobtrusively serves to support the individual's capacity to learn skills for community living.

By contrast, remote monitoring focuses on supervision. In caregiving fields, especially in those related to people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, we are used to seeing this emphasis on supervision because of safety concerns. Our primary concern is often to prevent any possibility of negative outcomes. An example of remote monitoring technology: The use of cameras in client kitchens, with staff using the cameras to supervise and instruct the client in the cooking process, step by step.


#2 Enabling technology creates opportunities for teaching skills, while remote monitoring observes (and reports) changes.

Enabling technology starts with the goal of proactive skill-building. An enabling technology mindset dares us to ask big questions: What kind of life does this person want to live? What are their goals? How can they gain as much independence as possible? At SimplyHome we regularly get to witness people with developmental disabilities growing into new skill sets that their families and caregivers did not think possible: cooking for themselves, running their households, living in their own apartments, and managing their own medications. A lot of times, enabling technology encourages the family or caregivers to do less for the individual and support more opportunities for their loved one to learn independence.

The mindset around remote monitoring often starts with the goal of knowing when something goes wrong. Sensor-based technology is often used to alert caregivers when an individual is wandering, might need help, or has missed a medication. As a result, we can consider remote monitoring a more reactive approach to care. When something occurs outside of the routine, caregivers respond to the issue (after it arises).


#3 Enabling technology fosters dignity of risk; remote monitoring accepts dependence.

Enabling technology opens the door to a life of potential choices and possibilities. We have found that when people with I/DD are offered the opportunity to self-determine priorities and preferences for their lives, they become much more motivated to make decisions about housing, vocation, and leisure. To express our belief that people should have these choices, we use the phrase "dignity of risk":

Dignity of Risk:

The opportunity to succeed and make mistakes, and

the invitation to grow and learn from those experiences.

Sometimes it is challenging for families and care teams to open the door to these choices. And, as we have seen with our client Anthony and his mother Dorothy, sometimes the individual is ready for independence before the people around him.

The mindset around remote monitoring accepts that many people with I/DD have not learned many of the skills necessary for independent living. Monitoring technology takes gaps in skills into account and focuses on preventing negative outcomes that could potentially occur. Often, because of this mindset, choices are made for the individual, rather than the individual self-determining their priorities for their lives.


#4 Enabling technology focuses on possibility; remote monitoring focuses on predictability.

The enabling technology mindset challenges us to be open to new possibilities initiated by the individual. When a person self-advocates for his or her own schedule, it’s possible that we might see this as a disruptive behavior at first. A person-centered mindset reminds us, though, that it is disruptive only to the system that is currently in place. For Dakota, a client of ours who lives in North Carolina, living on his own was actually key to addressing long-term behavior concerns. SimplyHome implemented sensor-based technology that reminded Dakota to use his CPAP machine, take his keys with him when leaving the house, and turn his stove off if he left it on, among other daily routines.

Within a year of being supported by enabling technology in his own space, Dakota demonstrated that he could cook independently, remember his keys on his own, develop a rapport with his support person (rather than an argumentative dynamic), and connect to people in his neighborhood through a team sport. Predictable? Not so much. In fact, it was a rather surprising outcome to people who knew Dakota before and assumed that his behavioral problems would never change.

The use of remote monitoring, by contrast, creates more predictable systems for supporting a person with an intellectual or developmental disability. It can create situations in which the individual's life is scheduled for them, and choices are reduced. This is understandable from the perspective of a provider who is supporting many individuals: You want to promote efficiency, streamline schedules for caregivers, and keep everyone on the same page.


#5 Enabling technology seeks to empower, while remote monitoring seeks to protect.

A frequently seen example of remote monitoring is the use of cameras in client residences, with staff assigned to watch the cameras. The main goal of the cameras is to protect clients and to prevent negative outcomes.

Cameras could also be used for enabling technology. One product we often install for clients who are living on their own for the first time is the Ring Video Doorbell. Rather than being used to watch the client, the camera assists the client in keeping their residence safe and knowing when to let people in the house. The care team can also receive notifications about who is at the door, in case the client needs support.

Technology can do much more than address our concerns. We all use technology as a tool to help us meet our goals and facilitate our routines – things like getting up in the morning, keeping track of our fitness, running our businesses, and connecting us to the people around us for support.

Enabling technology asks caregivers, families, and providers to look beyond our fears and anxieties to ask: What is possible? What could happen if technology was channeled into helping each individual meet their priorities, goals, and concerns?

These are exciting questions, and an exciting journey. Enabling technology is just that – a journey, one full of possibilities. So: What's your why for using technology?

We’re on this journey with you. Want to talk about the possibilities of enabling technology? Get in touch.