The elderly segment of the population is experiencing rapid growth worldwide leading to increased demands on the health care system. One solution is to develop novel technologies to promote independent living, where users are able to continue to live safely in their own home rather than entering costly institutional care facilities. In North America, the stove is one of the most frequent causes of fire accidents in the home. Many of these fire accidents are caused by human error or forgetfulness, a problem which may be more serious with advanced age. An automated stove top monitoring system could significantly increase kitchen safety. In this thesis, a stove top monitoring system is developed that uses a thermal camera to detect dangerous situations and behaviours, and alert the user before a fire accident occurs. Monitoring systems such as the one developed here will serve to promote independent living among the elderly leading to increased quality of life and decreased health care costs.
The stove top monitoring systems consists of four subsystems: the burner status (active/inactive) detection system, the burner temperature detection system, the pot presence/absence detection system, and the human activity detection system. Twenty nine experiments were conducted using three different types of stove tops: 2-burner electrical coil, 4-burner electric ceramic top, and 5-burner natural gas. Each subsystem was thoroughly tested and robust performance was achieved in all cases. Lastly, data fusion algorithms were developed to combine the data gathered by the four subsystems, and to alert the user or caregiver when a dangerous situation occurs.
A thermal camera is used in this thesis to quantify burner temperature. Although the problem could be simplified by also using a natural light camera, particularly to detect human activity, we restrict ourselves to using only a thermal imaging camera with a fixed narrow field of view to address privacy concerns and encourage adoption by the elderly population. Furthermore, no modifications to the stove top are required allowing this system to be retrofit on any stove top when deemed necessary by a caregiver, user, or their family.