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Health

CD - 3/03/2014

DomAssist: Help at home for the elderly

The DomAssist project aims to improve the well-being and independence of the elderly in their own homes by installing a range of simple sensors to detect movement, light and electricity usage. The readings from these sensors are then combined intelligently by a number of applications that interact with the user by means of a tablet computer. 

The experimental DomAssist platform has been in use since the Spring of 2014 in the Gironde region of south-west France. A spin-off from the work of the Phoenix research team, the system is installed in the homes of elderly users, providing digital help in many aspects of their daily lives. The average age of those taking part in the study is 85. “We chose to begin with a cohort of 24 users of the  technology, comparing them with a control group of a further 24 people who were not using the technology”, explains Lucile Dupuy , a PhD student in the field of cognitive science.

The only equipment needed is a few sensors to detect movement, light and electricity usage, together with two computer tablets with touch-screens. “All the equipment can be obtained easily and cheaply on the high street, and we can install the system in any type of home”, explains Geoffrey Escojido , an ergonomist in the project team.

The main tablet computer is used as a control panel, providing the interface between the user and the system. This tablet is installed in a central location, in a similar way to a fixed-line telephone. The second tablet is used for entertainment and social interaction.

When there is no interaction, the system is transparent and the main tablet works as an electronic photo frame. If the platform sensors detect any unusual activity, such as a door left open, a message appears on the table asking the user to confirm that all is well. If there is no response, the user’s family or professional helpers are alerted to the situation.

Real benefits

“This technology also provides access to other applications such as the Apple Store”, adds Geoffrey Escojido, “One example of another application on the system is the light path. If the user wakes during the night and switches on their bed-side lamp, the system will detect this and automatically switch on other lights in the house to illuminate the path to the kitchen, bathroom or toilet. There is also a simplified email system, developed by Inria”.

“The aim of this research project is to assess whether the Dom’Assist technology can bring real benefits to elderly users in terms of their well-being, social interaction and safety. We also need to evaluate the acceptability of the system and how well the system is used”, explains Lucile Dupuy.

The feedback has been positive. After several years of research, development and implementation, the Dom’Assist project is now off the ground and fully operational. Research is continuing with a number of partners in Europe and Canada, and Inria is currently working on modifications to the systems to make it suitable for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. The start-up company is now being established in France to market and install the platform throughout the country.

Partners:

Carsat, Gironde local authority, Udccas, CNSA, CCMA Aquitaine, and the Aquitaine regional government.

Keywords: Independence Elderly people at home Health

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