Todays world of care is multifaceted, especially people living independently in their own house or flat are supported in their life in very different ways: Relatives often take care and visit frequently to help in different tasks from dishwashing to laundry. Professional caretakers may help on more demanding medical or nursing tasks. Voluntary visitors like voluntary services of health organisations (‘Freiwilligenbesuchsdienste’) may add another informal source of care and warmth to the life of older people. A currently growing area is support by different AAL-technologies, ranging from the (established) in-house alarm-systems to new smart-house technologies like building automation, activity-monitoring and emergency detection.
Informal care already plays an important role in the assistance of older people and will increase with the demographic change in the near future. As families are more often geographically widespread or blended, an increasing amount of personal care and assistance will more and more become the occupation of voluntaries. Individual motivation, skills and participation vary greatly between these caretakers who can be anyone from friends to neighbours and from part-time workers to retired people. All volunteers share the wish for occupation in life in addition to or as a replacement for their trained work. Being a third party between direct relatives and professional care may rise certain problems: not knowing what the others are doing or what needs to be fulfilled is one of the problems they have to deal with. Especially volunteers who engage only from time to time are confronted with a lack of up-to-date information. Sharing this information with relatives and professional caretakers enhances the volunteer’s job, boosts the quality of the service and, thus, the overall satisfaction.
The integration of smart-house technologies can furthermore enable older users to spend more happy years independently in their own houses or flats. Most of the available smart-house-devices become more and more easy-to-use for the older end-user, but installation, setup and maintenance need to be done by skilled professionals. So even for minor problems or regular service-tasks, an appointment with a craftsman needs to be arranged by the user. This may cause annoyance, and may even leave the smart-house technologies unavailable for a certain time and thus decrease the acceptance of the user or require expensive fast-response service-contracts.
In practice, most of the older users already receive professional or voluntary non-professional care by caretaking organisations and some do already have in-house emergency systems that need service from time to time. These visitors could help also with these technology-issues, but often do not have access to the necessary know-how. The aim of KNOTS is to enable professional or voluntary caretakers, technicians and other users to share knowledge and retain knowledge available for a long period of time.
In the project KNOTS, a knowledge-database for persons in care environments will be developed to allow easy access for skilled or non-skilled users, professionals, technicians and volunteers. The mobile user-interface will be primarily implemented on commercially available tablet-computers or a stationary system that can be used in meeting-points or, while all data will be stored, processed and indexed on a server based system. General access via web-browsers is also an option. As this knowledge-base will be service for very different levels of skills, it needs to be highly barrier free and the interface needs to adapt to the individual users.
To reach a high level of acceptance, the user will be able to store content in various ways: The user may post text notes with or without using automatic speech recognition, audio-comments can be recorded and even short instructional videos can be posted by the users, using nothing but a tablet hardware. Voice-enabled usage and preparation of both, the knowledge and the system itself provide a low-barrier access by using natural speech as input modality. Recorded audio- and video-content will be analyzed by a server-based speech-recognition framework to enable indexing and other techniques to reduce barriers like e.g. automatic subtitles.
Many AAL-devices have to be configured using no or small displays and are, thus, often difficult to be set up by a non-skilled user (even for technicians the procedures are often not that obvious). Providers of smart-house technologies can feed interactive manuals of their devices to the KNOTS knowledge database. These manuals may use web-techniques as well as augmented reality.
KNOTS should improve the development of integrated solutions for older people living at home by merging professional and voluntary caretakers, caretaking relatives, inhouse-emergency systems and AAL-technologies and corresponding services by creating a common accessible, barrier-free knowledge base.
The project-partners expect a strong increase in living environments equipped with smart-home technologies and thus, a strong demand for solutions that provide a barrier free access to related knowledge, especially for non-professionals. The technologies developed in this project can be easily transferred to others professional and non-professional fields of applications.
The KNOTS-Team, July 2014
KNOTS is funded by within the EU AAL-JointProgram and by the national funding agencies.