Widow's Might: Non-emergency buttons for Elders

How do we bridge today’s digital divide to connect homebound and elderly persons with helpful existing services?

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My Heartfelt Idea: Looking After Elders

Most churches have service ministries, like handy people to fix issues inside and outside a home. Fall season means leaf raking and stick pickup; so many leaves and sticks! And what about elders who are hungry? Churches have food ministries too. It also doesn't have to be church-based services; any service can be connected.

It's time to connect the dots using some awesome hardware and cool IoT technology!

Non-emergency Service Buttons

Adafruit makes inspiring hardware and this little NeoKey 1x4 button pad was the spark of my idea!

AdaFruit NeoKey 1x4 QT
AdaFruit NeoKey 1x4 QT

Whether you call it I2C or Qwiic or Stemma QT or QW/ST or SCSI (just kidding sort-of) 🌼 daisy 🌼 chains 🌼 are 🌼 great! And solderless too!

Make Your Own Photo Keycaps

Adafruit Relegendable Plastic Keycaps for MX Compatible Switches
Adafruit Relegendable Plastic Keycaps for MX Compatible Switches

My Prototype Keycaps

Prayer Visit Button  (U+1F64F)

Prayer Visit Button

Food Visit Button  (U+1F35E)

Food Visit Button

Handy Visit Button  (U+1F4A1)

Handy Visit Button

Lawn Visit Button  (U+1F342)

Lawn Visit Button

The Make or Break Requirement

Elders don't have Wi-fi networks.

My device requires a network and I can't assume elders have any form of  wireless network.  I could go big and build my own LoRa municipal network, but I don't really want to sink time into that, if I don't have  to.  How about going small instead?

Requirement Exceeded: Blues LTE Notecard

When you buy a Blues LTE Notecard, you receive enough built-in, prepaid LTE connectivity and cloud integration credits to probably last for the entire lifetime of your device, especially a very low-volume communications device like mine.

Blues Notecard aka Project MVP
Blues Notecard aka Project MVP

Blues Notecard Carrier Boards (Notecarriers)

 Blues Notecard Carrier Boards (Notecarriers)
Blues Notecard Carrier Boards (Notecarriers)

Blues Notecarrier-B above is pure simplicity with its QT connectedness; I'm eyeballing it for future smaller sized device implementations.

SparkFun Electronics also carries the Blues MicroMod Starter Kit which gives devs their choice of microprocessor too.  It's a veritable buffet of electronics choices pictured below!

SparkFun Blues MicroMod Starter Kit
SparkFun Blues MicroMod Starter Kit

Open Hardware Moment

I would be remiss if I didn't spotlight Blues' open hardware repository, which electronics wizards can (and have) remixed into new, optimal devices to solve specific problems and use cases. I would love to learn how to craft my own PCBs... I think I can! I think I can! 🚂

Open Source Hardware
Open Source Hardware

MicroPython and CircuitPython

I intended the device to be powered by MicroPython / CircuitPython as a professional challenge; this code can be reused to serve as the foundation for many "service button" ideas swimming around in my head. 🐬 🧠

Elder Device Operation

Elder presses any given service button and a JSON message is sent from the device over LTE to Blues then sent to Twilio's SMS API to send alerts to defined service teams.

Elder Device Operation

Device Asks: Where Am I?

Blues LTE Notecard has built-in cellular triangulation which is totally awesome, but my device required an higher level of precision to enable door-to-door mapping for service teams. I use the GPS coordinates to generate a very precise Google Maps SMSed to services teams.

FYI: There is code to make the NeoKey's buttons turn red when there's not a GPS fix. I do recommend the device being placed closer to a window than not, but big things come in tiny packages... I've been pleasantly surprised at getting double-digit satellite connections while being fully inside a home or building.

This project is focused on non-emergency services, but with a high precision GPS on-board, it does become feasible to connect the device to an emergency help service like Noonlight's API. It also becomes possible to get transportation services for elder trips to the doctor or food deliveries using Uber's API.

Adafruit Mini GPS PA1010D - UART and I2C - STEMMA QT
Adafruit Mini GPS PA1010D - UART and...
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widows-might software release in MicroPython/CircuitPython

Zip Archive - 38.21 kB - 05/29/2023 at 16:21


  • 1 × Blues Starter Kit Get started with the Notecard with this kit! Includes a LTE Cat-1 Notecard, STM32 Swan MCU, Notecarrier-F, and Notecarrier-Pi Hat.
  • 1 × Adafruit Neokey 1x4 (Qwiic / QT)
  • 1 × Adafruit Kailh Mechanical Key Switches
  • 1 × Adafruit Relegendable Plastic Keycaps
  • 1 × Adafruit Mini GPS PA1010D (Qwiic / QT)

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