IBM Research Exploring LiDAR Sensor Use for Elderly Care

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International Business Machines Corporation IBM is collaborating with homecare services focused London-based start-up Cera Care, per Reuters. IBM Research UK and Cera Care will carry out a pilot program for six-months to explore the effectiveness of LiDAR (or Light Detection and Ranging) laser sensors to monitor the elderly.

As part of the pilot program, LiDAR sensors will be installed in “around 10-15 volunteer households in Britain from June” to track the client’s daily activities. IBM Research’s machine learning (ML) software will be utilized to analyze the client’s location data and trace repeatable patterns.

Any change in the normal patterns could be associated with change in the client’s psychological and physical health, this in turn will enable a trigger to alert the caretaker. This will lead to immediate attention and avert any untoward incidents like in case of a fall.

We believe IBM is leaving no stone unturned to capitalize on growing opportunities in Europe. It is to be noted that aging population is becoming a growing concern in the continent.

In this regard, if the pilot program becomes successful, it will be a noteworthy win for IBM as it is well positioned to expand business in the domain. This in turn, will lead to higher adoption of IBM’s robust ML and AI offerings, which enhances the company’s growth prospects.

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Exploring Use Cases of LiDAR

LiDAR leverages laser light pulses which enable it to generate fine-grained high-resolution images, maps, and provide navigation patterns through the surroundings.

Alphabet’s GOOGL self-driving car unit, Waymo and automakers including General Motors Company, Ford Motor Company, among others have implemented LiDAR in their advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).

Growing clout of self-driving technology led to the popularity of LiDAR sensors. However, pricey LiDAR tech is being sidelined by Tesla and Nissan, among other automakers. Per IBM’s research scientist, Nicola Palmarini, as revealed by Reuters, “3D sensors currently cost between $800 and $1,000 each.”

Notably, technology companies are exploring new use cases of LiDAR, beyond self driving to smart homes, and robotics in elderly care.

LiDAR provides accurate data about an individual’s movement while maintaining privacy, as it doesn’t “recognize” attributes like age, faces and gender. The fact that LiDAR tech will ensure confidentiality provides leverage to the project.

Demographic Aging: A Key Trigger

Per World Health Organization data, world’s population over 60 years of age is anticipated to hit approximately 2 billion by 2050 compared with 900 million recorded in 2015.

Growing demand of caretakers for the elderly in the backdrop of rising population aging calls for personalized care systems. Technology is disrupting major sectors and homecare facilities are no exception to the trend.

Moreover, to avert health risks associated with prolonged exposure to lasers, the pilot project intends to test the LiDAR technology which is certified to be safe for domestic purposes.

Palmarini, believes that using “one LiDAR sensor per room,” is likely to be cost-efficient. Anticipating LiDAR prices to decline over time is anticipated to be a tailwind.

These initiatives enhance the prospects of the project. We believe innovation in technology will lead to improvement in methods used to address the challenges associated with population aging.

Moreover, solid adoption of IBM Cloud, Services, Watson Health, among other offerings, substantiates the company’s growing clout in the healthcare sector in general.

However, increasing investments are likely to weigh on margin expansion at least in the near term.

Zacks Rank & Key Picks

Currently, IBM carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Some better-ranked stocks worth considering in the broader sector include Cadence Design Systems CDNS and j2 Global, Inc. JCOM, each currently sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Long-term earnings growth rate for Cadence and j2 Global is pegged at 11% and 8%, respectively.

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