A new mobile video assistance technology programme funded by the European Commission’s eTEN programme and designed to aid elderly people to live independently at home is ready for deployment.
The Belgian designed Advanced TeleassisTance convErgent NeTwork for chronIc diseAse patieNts and Elders projecT – (ATTENTIANET) – offers elderly people a complete package to keep them at home, and monitor their movements ensuring instant attention should any accidents occur.
It uses a Video AssisTance and Location service solution (ViTaL) to ensure that elderly people with moderate disabilities can be contacted at any time simply by using their remote command device, or an adapted mobile device with an alarm push button.
The idea is for users to carry one of their devices on them at all times, so they can easily be tracked, and if at home, can be contacted via a specially-designed mobile phone.
With basic equipment connected via ADSL to the assistance centre, a video conference enables users to ask for further explanations about the social assistance service but helps carers to monitor the user’s physical state.
When they are away from home, users can be monitored via mobile phones and, through applications based on location services. The video assistance centre can keep contact with the users and offer them immediate assistance in case of emergency.
With the user’s permission, it is possible to set up a predefined user movement area and send an alarm to the video assistance centre or to relatives when the user leaves the area.
System developer, José Marrasé, said: “It’s quite a simple application that can be enhanced with new technologies, like ASDL, which gives bandwidth to provide additional applications like videoconferencing and mobile features.
“We used special and very simple mobile phones with just two buttons. These can trigger a call to the teleassistance centre and at the same time the teleassistance centre can pinpoint the user’s position.”
The system also allows families to use the video technology to keep in contact with their loved ones from afar.
Attentianet was recently successfully piloted in Spain and Belgium, where the mobile phones were tested to ensure they would provide the patient with an instant connection to a centre.
Marrasé said: “In many cases, we have seen that [the service] is quite convenient for people who have never had a mobile phone before. There is a hands-free system to talk and we use network servers, integrated with the teleassistance centre, to support it, configure it, detect if the battery is low, or there is a fault. And there are some mobiles that can also detect if the user has suffered a fall.”
Users can also make emergency calls from their homes using fixed phones or TV remote controls, or from outside using mobile phones.
The video assistance centre can locate and identify them immediately, setting off a customised protocol established for the service: calling a relative, escalation to first line social/medical support or emergency services or starting a video conference monitoring session.
The system will now be deployed in Belgium and Spain and the developers have had interest expressed from Portugal and France. Plans to decide who receives the systems and potential costs of the system are now under discussion.