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New technology to assist older people live longer at home

The ICT- environment at UiA received 16 million NOK from the Norwegian Research Council to develop new technological solutions for use in Norwegian public health system. 

Photo of elderly woman with cell phone
In CareWell, researchers with different expertise work together to find new ways for older people to live safely at home for longer (foto: Colourbox).

“People prefer to remain independent and live at home as long as possible. We should develop technological solutions that enable older people to stay safely at home for longer than before”, says professor Matthias Pätzold from the Department of Information and Communication Technology at UiA.

Pätzold heads the research project “Cooperative Human Activity Recognition and Localisation for Healthcare and Wellbeing” (CareWell).  The project focuses on recognition and localization of all activities at home, using radio sensors.

“Data from these sensors can tell us something about whether there is normal or unusual activity in the user’s home”, says Pätzold.  

In the previous research project WiCare, Pätzold and colleagues used radio frequency sensors to detect any falls. In CareWell, they extend the functional range so that several types of activities can be recognized.

Shortcomings in the present solutions

According to the researcher, there is a great need for new solutions in this area. Not in the least because emergency buttons and smartwatches are not ideal. Such devices are often used in the healthcare sector, but according to Pätzold, they have many shortcomings. 

“Emergency buttons are not useful if the user cannot reach the button or is physically unable to press it. A smartwatch can easily be forgotten to wear. And video surveillance is challenging when it comes to protecting privacy”, says Pätzold. 

Bilde av Matthias Pätzold

Matthias Pätzold is professor of mobile communications and heads the research project CareWell. 

Using a combination of  radio frequency sensors and acoustic sensors, Pätzold and his project team are developing a system that measures the activity in the user’s home. They will install sensors in the room, and the data collected from these sensors will be analysed to detect activities performed by the user. 

“The aim is to detect and locate a large number of different user activities. This is possible with the upcoming fifth generation of mobile communication systems (5G), combined with signals from radio and sound sensors”, says Pätzold.

The measuring system will be able to tell how much support the user needs and detect whether someone has fallen.  This makes it easier to provide the necessary care for the user.  

“Moreover, the user will feel safer being alone at home in case something happens”, says Pätzold. 

The Research Council’s programme for better ICT-solutions

The project period for CareWell runs from 2020 to 2023 and will involve two new PhD students and three postdoctoral fellows in addition to Pätzold and cooperation partners.

Cooperaton partners in the project are NTNU Gjøvik (NO), Aalto University (FI), Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí (MX), SUPER RADIO AS (NO), Tingtun AS (NO), FTB Volmarstein (DE) and the municipality of Lillesand. 

CareWell is funded under the ICT-related research and innovation programme of the Research Council of Norway; IKTPLUSS.  This programme invests in projects that develop new knowledge and innovative technology that increase productivity and efficiency.  

The WISENET Center at the Department of Information and Communication Technology and the Mechatronics Center at the Department of Engineering Sciences are managing the project DEEPCOBOTS, which is also financed by the IKTPLUSS programme of the Research Council of Norway.