AAL Forum 2021 Blog


AAL Smart Ageing Challenge Prize Finalists – RIOT

AAL Smart Ageing Challenge Prize Finalists – RIOT

Revolutionising care using the Internet of Things

British company shortlisted for prestigious EU award for system that connects and protects the elderly through the Internet

Alcove is a British company looking to use the power of the Internet to revolutionise care for the elderly – and it has just been shortlisted for a major award, funded by the EU, for the most innovative system that uses the Internet of Things (IoT). The prestigious award is the first ever Active and Assisted Living (AAL) Challenge Prize, which is awarding €50,000 for the best product or idea that uses IoT to empower older adults to achieve the quality of life to which they aspire, socially and independently.

The IoT is already having a huge impact on just about everything we do in life, so applying it to the ever-growing need for care for the elderly makes perfect sense. People are living longer, with one in five of us now expected to live until 100 years old. But as our population gets older, more people are living with long term health conditions and experience some form of disability, so require care or assistance at home.

Traditionally, this care has been provided by formal carers, friends and family at home, in supported living facilities or residential care homes. With more people living longer, this is becoming more difficult and expensive.

Alcove believes that the person-led approach to care remains hugely important, but technology can and should be used to enhance this care, in the long run helping cut costs and improve outcomes. Technology can ensure resources can be deployed efficiently exactly where they are most needed. It also has a key role to play in prevention by monitoring those who may need assistance due to illness, dementia or frailty.

Alcove also believes that by using technology, older people are able to take more control of their lives. Care is often something that is done to the older person and this can lead to rapid deterioration in cognitive and physical skills, and actually reduce mobility and independence.

Alcove is an adult social care system powered by the Internet. Using devices such as wireless sensors and wearables; threshold based alerts, messages and prompts can be made in direct response to activity, or lack of it, by the older person. When any abnormal behaviour is detected by the system – lack of movement, falls, doors being left open, or even extremes of temperature – the alerting engine will send out the appropriate message or prompt to the older adult. If there is no response, messages can be escalated to others – family members, formal carers or emergency services, for example.

Often, the older person is perfectly able to deal with the situation themselves, and does not need assistance. So, if the person hasn’t moved for two hours, they are “nudged” to get up and do something before someone is asked to check on them. If it is cold in the house, the person is prompted to turn the heating on.

In-home data is analysed, and automated messages are sent to either the Alcove Smartwatch or Alcove Connect, wearable or in-home devices depending on preference. The alert is only escalated if the person does not respond or their behaviour does not change in response to the nudge.

Many worry that technology will be used to cut the services people receive and replace human contact with automated monitoring. Alcove believes the opposite. “Technology must be used to optimise rather than cut services – a system which works both ways,” says Alcove director, Helen Bowey. “Firstly, it allows us to get the right support to people when they enter the system and then quickly spot when people’s conditions improve or deteriorate, and they need more or less support,” she continues.

“Alcove can demonstrate real evidence of positive behavioural interventions. For example, daily movement from bedroom to kitchen, and the fridge opening in the morning before a care visit, may be sufficient evidence that this visit could be better deployed elsewhere. There would be no need for a rota of checks because we know people are up and about, and the system flags if they aren’t.

“And just to put minds at ease, we aren’t leaving people more isolated by reducing levels of human contact,” add Alcove co-director Alexandra Eavis. “We are very passionate about using technology to better connect people so our new in-home device does super simple voice and video calling so you can have face-to-face chats with everyone from your daughter in Australia to the district nurse. Lifestyle nudges are used to help people help themselves wherever possible; messages or reminders can be sent by anyone in an approved network; and alerts are only raised if something really is of concern.”

“Care will always be a predominantly human-resource reliant sector, but the IoT and the real-time insights it produces has a large role to play to improve people’s lives, save money and free up people to do what they do best – CARE.”

Alcove is among 15 entrants from a healthy total of 200 from all over Europe to have been shortlisted for the AAL Challenge Prize. As part of the judging process, the company, which is listing its innovation as RIOT – Revolutionary Internet of Things – by Alcove, attended a special Innovation Academy in Brussels in July, where its ideas were further scrutinised by the judges and advice on how these ideas can be further commercialised for this massively growing market were explored.

“We were delighted by the variety of entries we received,” says Karin Weiss, Deputy Managing Director and Head of Grants at the AGE Foundation and one of the competition judges. “We saw many interesting solutions and were particularly impressed by the approach taken to bridging the gap between the older and younger generations, as well as the approach to stabilising the quality of life at home for older people.

“The challenge now is to identify a winner that is exciting, commercially viable and close to the edge of the market,” she adds. “We want to see the prize being used to connect this potential with investors, refining the prototypes and creating impetus to get the solution to market.”

A huge amount of work is being done in the UK in the sector and, with Alcove already engaged in developing solutions designed to increase the quality of life for older people, hopes are high that this simple, smart solution will pick up the top prize when it is announced at the AAL Forum, being held at St Gallen, Switzerland, in September.

For more information about Alcove, please call Website: www.youralcove.com