‘Open assisted living lab’ seeks solutions for care sector

2 mins read

Scientists from Heriot-Watt University are launching what is believed to be the world’s first open and remote access living lab to research and create solutions for Ambient Assisted Living (OpenAAL)

The multi-disciplinary lab will target the fast co-creation of scalable and affordable solutions to support the care of vulnerable people whose urgent need has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project is funded by EPSRC under the Impact Acceleration Accounts scheme and has already gained support from NHS Lothian, The Digital Health and Care Institute (DHI), Blackwood Home and Care Group, Consequential Robotics, Alcuris, Cyberselves and The Data Lab - Scotland’s innovation centre for data and AI.

The Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS) is set to play a key role in connecting the project to members in its supporting organisations, including over 80 of the most significant care and support providers in Scotland’s third sector.

Part of the National Robotarium, based at Heriot-Watt University, the OpenAAL lab will use digital twin, Internet of Things (IoT) and Cloud technologies to provide a platform where researchers, industry and care providers, alongside end users of assisted living services, can co-create technology.

The platform will use the facilities from Heriot-Watt’s existing living lab - a complete flat with adjoining workshop – and it is hoped that, as the project expands, researchers from all over the world may use the space to collaborate.

The project will initially support key priority groups in the UK whose conditions have been compounded by the social isolation measures necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Heriot-Watt University has unique laboratory facilities and expertise in microsystems, (wireless) sensing, antenna, microwave and embedded systems, signal processing data science, machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), human-computer-interaction and Robotics.

These technologies can be used to enable non-intrusive monitoring of behaviour and vital signs, detect patterns and trends in behaviour and individual health status, identify problems, support self-management, decision-making and risk assessment, triage issues, facilitate communication and social connectedness, and provide social, cognitive and physical assistance when needed.

Commenting Dr Mauro Dragone, assistant professor at Heriot-Watt University and who is leading the OpenAAL project, said, “Our priority is to ensure that the devised solutions we create are practical and feasible, so they can be quickly implemented in the face of challenging social and economic conditions. There is huge potential to unify efforts and provide better support to the nation’s most vulnerable at this time. By combining the University’s unique laboratories with expertise in the care sector, we have the opportunity to tackle the current challenges head-on, but also establish long-term and cost-effective solutions to the wider challenges faced by individuals with assisted living needs in the home.

“By collaborating across sectors and mobilising Scotland’s ground-breaking technology, this project has the potential to bridge considerable gaps in communication, break down institutional silos and facilitate wide-scale industry cooperation.”

The lab is also looking to welcome support from producers, suppliers and service companies of assistive technology, telecare, telehealth, smart home solutions, and other Internet of Things products, such as ambient sensors, alarm systems, wearable fitness devices, smart video calling software, and also network and infrastructure providers.

The National Robotarium is a leading centre for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence and its collaborative approach is intended to create innovative solutions to global challenges. Key areas of research application include power systems, manufacturing, healthcare, human-robot interaction, assisted living, agritech and hazardous environments.

The National Robotarium building will open on Heriot-Watt’s Edinburgh campus in 2021.