A current vision in the area of ICT-supported independent living of the elderly involves populating the home with electronic devices (“things”), i.e. sensors and actuators, and linking them to the Internet. Creating such an Internet-of-Things (IoT) infrastructure is done with the ambition to provide automated information gathering and processing on top of which e-services can be built, E-care@home.
While the information can be stored in the form of PHRs, it needs to be linked with e.g. EHRs, home-service documentation and documentation generated by information from end-users and their informal caregivers. Semantic-interoperability related technologies play a central role in ambient intelligence systems and their components such as pervasive/ubiquitous computing, profiling, context awareness, and human-centric design. While these things need to “talk” to each other, the heterogeneity of the services, devices and communication technologies is a major challenge for expanding generic IoT technologies to efficient ICT-supported services for elderly. This project is designed to address this interoperability challenge. Semantic interoperability is seen as a key requirement for gaining the benefits of computerization of the health domain and much effort has been invested to understand and provide solutions of the problem of achieving semantic interoperability.
Testing the technology
The developed system will be evaluated in a cyclic manner and users input will drive the development and refinement. A first deployment of thy system will be one at a pilot site on month 12. This pilot aims to ensure that the technology is working as intended and is also a preparation of the deployment at a real test site at month 18. Throughout the project, the understanding and knowledge is incrementally built in each step in the following iteration.
Industrial and societal relevance of E-care@home
Despite substantial evidence indicating the importance of IT in the care sector, the level of IT adoption within health and social care systems remains low compared to use in other parts of the society. Identified barriers to health and social care IT adoption include health system productivity and quality of services. However, with Sweden’s level of adoption being among the highest of OECD countries, there exist opportunities for a market lead. In the project, we have taken especial care to include issues important to promote industry opportunities for transforming solutions into successful products. For instance, observing emerging standards, rules of public procurement, adaptability for international markets through semantic interoperability, also targeting consumer markets, etc.
Important is that the partners in E-care@home are already involved in a number of industry networks in the area of E-care. The large NovaMedTech program, funded by EU regional funds, already involves the partners from Örebro, Mälardalen and Östergötland and also a number of companies. The Vinnova-funded initiative New Tools for Health (Hälsans nya verktyg) includes ~50 cooperating companies. These programs provide vast opportunities for continued industry cooperation and also a number or research challenges and insights to be feed into E-care@home . Relevant is also the cooperation with the Vinnova test beds Smarta äldre (Örebro), Mistel (Västerås) and Testbed LiÖ (Linköping).
The industrial relevance of the IoT and the closely related machine-to-machine semantic/syntactic interoperability is indisputable. The relevance of machine-to-human semantic interoperability, as proposed for study in E-care@home, is just emerging. However, in order for ICT solutions to survive the transition from research laboratories to widespread practical use, it is essential to handle aspects of human use and organizational implementation in an integrated way. E-care@home combines competence and experience of all these aspects and by its distributed organization, the interaction with a variety of companies and caregivers is simplified.
In the future, it is expected that a vital consumer market for solutions which support independent living is developed as a complement to the aids provided and paid for by the society. The opportunities for, in particular small and medium size companies, to explore this market are vast. However, a necessary prerequisite for succesful solutions will be the semantic interoperability on top of standardization at the technical level.