Scientists at Heriot-Watt University have unveiled a new laboratory which aims to research and develop technologies for use in the care sector.
The combined apartment and research workshop, based at Heriot-Watt’s National Robotarium, is the world’s first open and remote access living lab focused on creating solutions for Ambient Assisted Living (OpenAAL).
Researchers will collaborate with care providers and end users to explore the use of emerging technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), digital twins and wearable tech.
Funded by the EPSRC under the Impact Acceleration Accounts scheme, the project has already gained support from NHS Lothian, the Digital Health and Care Institute and The Data Lab.
OpenAAL will utilise the facilities already in place at Heriot-Watt and will initially support priority groups whose conditions have been compounded by social isolation measures. This will include people with multi-morbidity conditions, disabilities and some in acute stages of mental ill health, the university said.
Dr Mauro Dragone, assistant professor at Heriot-Watt University, is leading the OpenAAL project. He believes the groundbreaking lab will play a crucial role in developing innovative solutions for people with assisted living needs.
“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,” he said.
“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,” Dragone added.
Long-term, Dragone hopes the OpenAAL lab project will lead to greater cross-sector collaboration as the nation looks to alleviate the strain on health and social care services through technology.
Ahead of the project’s official launch on 1st July, organisers are encouraging those working in the care sector or associated industries to get involved by participating in workshops and focus groups to pinpoint the most urgent challenges faced in the sector.
The University said this will help researchers assess the most promising existing and emerging technologies for the project.
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OpenAAL is also welcoming support from producers, suppliers and service companies of assistive technology, smart home solutions and other IoT products including ambient sensors, alarm systems, wearable fitness devices and smart video calling software.