Heriot-Watt University National Robotarium image

Heriot-Watt University scientists are launching what they believe is the world’s first open and remote access living lab to research and create innovative independent living solutions for elderly and disabled people.

Creating solutions for Ambient Assisted Living (OpenAAL), the multi-disciplinary lab will target the rapid co-creation of scalable and affordable assistive solutions to support the care of vulnerable people whose urgent need has been exemplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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.

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The platform, which utilises the facilities from Heriot-Watt’s existing living lab – a complete flat with adjoining workshop – will ensure time and distance are no longer barriers to research and innovation.

Heriot-Watt’s technologies can be used to enable non-intrusive monitoring of behaviour and vital signs, and detect patterns in behaviour and individual health statuses.

Now, the assisted living lab is seeking collaborators from the assistive technology sector to support the research project. The lab is welcoming support from producers, suppliers and service companies of assistive technology, telecare, telehealth, smart home solutions, and other Internet of Things (IoT) products.

Dr Mauro Dragone, Assistant Professor at Heriot-Watt University, said: “Our priority is to ensure the devised solutions 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.”

The project will initially support key priority groups in the UK whose conditions have been impacted the most by the shielding measures introduced in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

“Successful innovation in this field is crucial to alleviate the strain on our health and social care services and enhance the resilience of our communities,” Dr Dragone continued. “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.”

Funded by EPSRC under the Impact Acceleration Accounts scheme, the research project has 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.

In addition, the Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS) will play a key role in connecting the project to members in its supporting organisations.

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