Freddie Howells – Door Pi Plus

Finalist category: BT Young Pioneer


BT Young Pioneer, Finalist, 2019

This project is a facial recognition, door entry and home monitoring system primarily for people with dementia and other vulnerable adults. Freddie initially developed this project to help his great aunt Pat who is 88 and lives at home with dementia.

Door Pi Plus allows people with dementia to continue to live alone at home in safety for longer. Dementia sufferers often find it hard to remember people and can struggle to make appropriate decisions regarding who should enter their house. This system provides the individual and family with the reassurance that only approved individuals can gain access.  Using a Raspberry Pi microcomputer, a PIR motion sensor attached to the individual’s front door detects motion and it triggers the camera to take a picture of the visitor. This image is checked against a database of ‘known’ faces. If the face is recognised, the visitor is prompted to scan their ID tag for two factor authentication. If the face and ID match, the door is opened. If the face and ID are not recognised the visitor is prompted to call a number to gain access. At the same time a text is sent to the family alerting them to who has visited and the time of visit. As the person enters, an audio recording of the visitor’s voice is played in the elderly person’s room so they know who is entering.

It also allows for monitoring an individual remotely via webcam, motion sensor and intercom. This can act as a back up system to a CareLink bracelet which individuals with dementia can forget to put on or forget to push if they have fallen. If no motion has occurred the family is alerted so that they can access the web stream or intercom to check in on the individual. The motion sensor is also useful to monitor care team compliance as an alert will be triggered if no-one has visited in the required time frame. Door Pi Plus also advises the family when someone has entered and who has entered. People with dementia struggle with recall and cannot remember who has visited or if they have had any visitors. By texting the family, there is a log of visitors. The automated tasks, such as controlling temperature via a fan also helps where memory of how to perform simple tasks has been affected. The medication reminder also helps those who struggle to cope with a traditional diary.

This project differs from other products on the market because it is specifically geared to people with dementia. It is a fully working prototype, and going forward, Freddie would love to find a company who was interested in bringing this to market to help all those who need it. He would like to develop this further by adding logging of entry and exit as well as exploring further the role of music and lights in helping with compliance with everyday tasks.

This project deserves to win this award because it meets a very real need in our population. Although Freddie created this project to help his great aunt Pat, there is the potential for a much wider application. In the UK around 850,000 people have dementia, which is 1 in 6 of the over 80s population and a third of those are living alone and so extremely vulnerable. Families often live huge distances away from their loved ones and worry about their safety while living at home, but want to support them in maintaining their independence. While developing this project many people have reported how much this product would help their family members.

Freddie has already received lots of positive support from experts in the engineering and tech industry. Earlier this year he won the Siemens Digital Skills Award and the Junior Engineer of the Year at the Big Bang Competition and the Hardware Category at Coolest Projects UK. Freddie is delighted to have been chosen as one of the finalists for the BT Young Pioneer of the Year and is looking forward to the next step in this exciting journey.

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