Cookies at Which? We use cookies to help improve our sites. If you continue, we'll assume that you're happy to accept our cookies. Find out more about cookies

Assistive technology at home

Assistive technology and home security

Article 5 of 6

Put us to the test

Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy.

Assistive technology and home security

Find the right technological gadgets to help make the home a safer place for those with a disability or dexterity, memory or mobility problems.

Home is the place where the most accidents happen, with falls being the biggest cause of accidents for older people. 

To help you fit the right technological gadgets to make the home a safer place for those with a disability or dexterity, memory or mobility problems, we've asked a panel of experts to select and review a range of assistive-technology products. These ranged from GPS tracking systems to gadgets specifically focused on home security and safety. 

The recommended products are presented in the table below. Which? members can log in now to unlock the table and view full details.

If you're not yet a member, take a £1 Whicih? trial to get instant access to this and all our other advice on home care and staying independent.

Assistive technology and staying safe at home
Name of product Price What is it? Who is it for? Our verdict

Brinno PHV MAC 14 Door Viewer

Brinno PHV MAC 14 Door Viewer

£125 A motion-activated peephole camera that sits behind the peephole on a front door. Callers are detected by motion sensors and photographed with the date and time, whether or not you are at home, and can then be reviewed on the 3-inch screen, or downloaded to your computer. Anyone wary of, or vulnerable to, bogus or doorstep callers Subscriber only content

Buddi

Buddi GPS personal location tracker and fall detector

Clip and wristband set (purchase + service plan): £299 + £6/week; Lease service plan: £12/week (clip-only cheaper) A GPS personal location tracker and fall detector. The person can call for assistance or - if they travel outside their pre-set ‘safe zone’ while out- it will alert the call-centre monitoring service or carer, and the system can locate them, so they can be collected. People who are prone to getting lost, falling or having medical emergencies when out. Subscriber only content

Canary

Canary activity-monitoring system

Buy £270 + £15/month monitoring; Rent from £36/month One of the activity-monitoring systems allowing people to check on relatives living elsewhere. It collects information on activity via sensors in rooms and on doors – for example, how often they use the kitchen or get up at night. It can alert you to problems, such as the person not moving in the morning, via a text or email. Visitors – such as paid home carers – can also use swipe cards when arriving and leaving.   People with dementia or who are frail and cannot communicate how they are. Subscriber only content

Envirotxt

Envirotxt temperature monitor

£99 A small plug-in unit with a Sim card monitors the temperature in a frail relative's home and alerts you by text if the temperature rises or drops outside pre-set limits or if there's a mains power failure. A frail relative who could mistakenly turn off or unplug the heating system, or have a power cut. Subscriber only content

Innohome Stove Alarm

Innohome stove alarm

£30 The battery-operated Stove Alarm is attached beneath your gas or electric cooker hood with magnets, or to the wall or cooker panel with screws. It learns how you use the cooker (to prevent false alarms) and sounds an alarm when the cooker temperatures rise, before a fire ignites. Someone easily distracted or forgetful who leaves the cooker turned on and unattended, risking a fire. Subscriber only content

Lifemax Home Safety Alert Mark II

Lifemax Home Safety Alert Mark II

£49 A wireless battery-operated, home pager alert system. Includes a base station receiver and two transmitter pendants with both a call and a panic button (for emergencies) with a range up to 30 metres. You could keep one pager permanently in, say, the bathroom. Families caring for a sick or disabled relative at home. Subscriber only content

Magiplug

Magiplug bath device

£9 This bath plug design works using a pressure-activated system – when your bath reaches a certain depth, the pressure plate in the plug opens to drain the excess water down your plughole. What’s more, it changes colour when the water gets too hot, to prevent you getting into a scalding bath. People with memory problems or who are easily distracted. Subscriber only content

Mr Beams Universal Light

Mr Beams universal light

£12.50 This bright, battery-operated white LED light turns on automatically when it’s dark and detects movement within 3 metres – good for preventing falls in the night. People who are prone to to falling and forget to put the light on, or are away from home and therefore disorientated in the dark when they get up at night. Subscriber only content

The Keysafe Company (Supra UK)

Supra keysafe

£60 A house key is stored in a covered metal box outside the person’s house, which is opened by tapping a code into the keypad. Anyone who has the code can let themselves in, so you would need to change it regularly. People who can’t let in visitors, such as home carers. Anyone who forgets their keys regularly. Subscriber only content

Telecare system

pendant alarm

POA

Telecare systems monitor vulnerable people and can send alerts when help is needed. At its most basic, telecare enables a person to call for help by pressing an alarm button on a watch or pendant. More intelligent pendants can also sense a fall. Both alert a call centre to organise help. Other sensors around a home can flag risks, such as someone not returning to bed within a pre-set time. Sensors can include:

  • smoke/heat sensors
  • bed exit/occupancy sensors (underneath mattress)
  • flood detectors
  • door-exit sensors
  • natural gas detector
  • carbon monoxide detector
People who can’t monitor or respond to risks - such as fire or falling - themselves. Subscriber only content

Truecall Care (re-named Truecall Secure)

Truecall Care (re-named Truecall Secure)

£120 This phone system can block unwanted callers while letting trusted callers through. Other callers hear a personalised message, directing them, for example, to ring a family member who can check the call is bona fide. The trusted and barred caller logs can be remotely managed over the internet or a telephone handset. People that are particularly vulnerable to telephone cold-calling tactics or want help with unwanted callers. Subscriber only content

Table notes: All prices include VAT, unless otherwise specified. Enquire if delivery costs are additional as this varies.

Many of the assistive-technology products above overlap with the devices mentioned on our telecare and tracker systems page. They can either be bought as standalone products – such as technological ‘personal assistants’ for the home – or linked to a call centre or carer as part of a wider telecare package, using sensors around the house.

Assistive technology kitchen safety

Various ‘environmental sensors’ are available to detect dangerous levels of gas, smoke, carbon monoxide or flooding in the house, as well as temperature extremes. These sensors emit a loud alarm and can also be set up to transmit an alarm to a monitoring centre or carer as part of a telecare package.

Other useful devices to improve safety in the kitchen include electromagnetic induction hobs, which heat only the pan and not the hob itself, thus reducing the chance of burns. And one-cup kettles boil enough water for only one cup, and reduce the need for pouring – a task that is often difficult if you have limited strength or dexterity. 

Both devices help to conserve energy, but they can be expensive to buy, with induction hobs starting at around £300 and going up to more than £3,000 for high-end models.

Preventing cold callers and intruders

You have told us that these are among your biggest safety worries. Uninvited or cold-callers who ignore a sticker or notice stating that you don’t wish to receive them may be committing a criminal offence, as is a trader who ignores your requests to leave and not return.

Trading Standards recommends always saying no to anyone cold-calling, no matter how plausible, as it’s an approach favoured by rogue traders. 

For front-door security, gadgets can be as simple as a door chain that can be unlocked from the outside (good if you care for a relative who keeps a chain on the door).

Make sure your house looks occupied, even when you’re away, and that it’s not obvious if a vulnerable person lives there. For example, a messy garden can tempt a prowling rogue trader to knock.

Helpful technology ranges from the simple Fake TV, which simulates a real TV behind the curtains while you’re away, to a home security system that allows you to monitor your home remotely for temperature, sound and movement, using your smartphone or tablet.

Environmental control units (ECUs) for household tasks

Environmental control units (ECUs) are electronic remote control systems that allow you to operate everyday domestic appliances and house fittings remotely, all from one device. 

You can use them for tasks such as opening and closing curtains and blinds, opening windows and doors, turning on lamps, and operating televisions and CD/DVD players. They're especially useful if you have trouble with dexterity or mobility around your home.

You choose which appliance you want to operate from a visual display panel on the ECU. Some units operate only one appliance – for example, opening and closing curtains electronically – but most will operate several. 

The remote controls work either by infrared or by radio frequencies, which have the advantage of being able to control appliances located in other rooms. ECUs can be push-button, touchscreen or voice-activated.

Smart thermostats and lighting control systems

One of the biggest smart home innovations to have sparked people's attention is smart energy management systems, such as smart thermostats and smart heating controls that can learn your routine and adjust the warmth of your home accordingly. 

And it doesn't stop at your heating  – new smart lighting systems mean you can turn your lights on and off from wherever you are.

Find out more about smart thermostats and lighting control systems, from brands such as Nest, Honeywell and Hive.

SHARE THIS PAGE