AI to help people live longer

Date :
Changed on 03/01/2020
The Grand Est region has mobilised in order to establish a centre for research in ageing with the help of the Regional Council, the ARS regional health agency and the CARSAT retirement and occupational health and safety fund. Meanwhile, a multidisciplinary scientific group of geriatricians, psychologists, sociologists, mathematicians and IT engineers has already been working for a few years alongside industry partners and user associations (Welcoop Cooperative, Pharmagest, the Nancy ONPA healthy ageing organisation, etc.) to improve the quality of life of the elderly through their living environment.

"The goal is for the home of tomorrow to be fitted with AI technologies to ensure long-term independence. We spoke about this with Christine Perret Guillaume, a geriatrician at Nancy Regional University Hospital, and François Charpillet, Inria Director of Research and coordinator of "Smart Homes for Health".

François Charpillet :"What we are talking about is a home augmented by multiple technologies such as robotics, smart sensors and home automation. We have developed CARELIB, a system due on the market by the end of 2018 with an integrated sensor to detect falls and assess the person's ability to move around. This technology is made possible by AI and machine learning.

How do you choose your areas of research? 

Christine Perret Guillaume :We draw up a list by exploring the contrasting needs of users, health professionals, industry partners and not-for-profit organisations regarding technology, the digital world and AI. We need to maintain this exchange of ideas between scientists and people working in the field, because the innovations will be incorporated into environments that must remain people-centric.

FC :With this smart apartment, we evaluate the solutions proposed, what's feasible and what's not, the aim being large-scale production. We need to be able to produce affordable systems, since they will be sold to as wide a market as possible. Such a constraint obliges us to make appropriate technical choices.

Right now, a humanoid robot at the fundamental research stage is worth more than €250,000. We are exploring less sophisticated tools like a solution based on the robot vacuum cleaner model that would make it possible to observe risk situations and even call the emergency services. 

So these technologies are about keeping an eye on people, even if it is for the right reasons?

CPG :That is exactly why an ethical framework is needed. As geriatricians, we prefer to think of it as safety. These are truly innovations that make primary and secondary prevention as well as rehabilitation possible.

We are beginning to work on frailty detection in the elderly to determine when their way of moving and behaving in their environment changes and how a technologically augmented home could ensure smart stimulation so that they retain their independence.

FC :There is a direct link between these tools and the benefits that we can obtain from them. If we develop technologies that are only about watching people, they won't be accepted. But if they provide a service, the user will accept the loss of some of their privacy. 

Are you imagining your future elderly self when you create these innovations?

CPG :We are influenced by the elderly people we meet, but as to actually picturing ourselves …

FC :The real question is, why make this technological research serve the interests of health? Precisely because this research has an immediate, more short-term impact. Mostly, it means that I can interact with people from other specialties and other backgrounds. It gets me out of the lab! "



© Re.Med. / Nov 2018

Laurence Verger

Research communication manager

Nancy CHRU (Regional University Hospital)