UK scientists have launched a virtual lab to research and create solutions for people with assisted living needs.
The open access, virtual assisted living lab (OpenAAL), believed to be the first of its kind in the world, will target the fast co-creation of scalable and affordable solutions to support the care of vulnerable people in their own homes.
Part of the National Robotarium, based at Heriot-Watt University in Edingburgh, the 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.
The platform, which utilises the facilities from Heriot-Watt’s existing living lab, is designed to ensure both time and distance are no longer barriers to research and innovation. It is hoped that, as the project expands, researchers from all over the world may use the space to collaborate.
Dr Mauro Dragone, assistant professor at Heriot-Watt University, is leading the OpenAAL project. 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, but also establish long-term and cost-effective solutions to the wider challenges faced by individuals with assisted living needs in the home.
“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. 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.”
The project is funded by EPSRC under the Impact Acceleration Accounts scheme and has already gained support from NHS Lothian, The Digital Health and Care Institute, Blackwood Home and Care Group, Consequential Robotics, Alcuris, Cyberselves and The Data Lab – Scotland’s innovation centre for data and AI.
Additional collaborators from the care sector are now urged to join the project. The Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland will play a role in connecting the project to members in its supporting organisations, including over 80 of the most significant care and support providers in Scotland’s third sector.
Project organisers are encouraging those working in the care sector or associated industries to get involved by participating in co-design workshops and focus groups to identify the most urgent challenges faced by the sector. This will help assess the most promising existing and emerging technologies for the project.