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CONFIDENCE: Ubiquitous care system to support independent living (CONFIDENCE)

Published on: 28/03/2011

The main objective of this project is the development and integration of innovative technologies to build a care system for the detection of abnormal events (such as falls) or unexpected behaviours that may be related to a health problem in elderly people.

Nowadays, most of the care systems in the market are limited to detect falls. The innovation of the system developed in the CONFIDENCE project is that it will not only detect falls, but also identify unexpected short- and long-term behaviours that could indicate health problems.

Thanks to these features, the elderly people will gain confidence and independence. CONFIDENCE will be a cost-effective, non-intrusive and reliable system that will increase the quality of life and security of the elderly and, thus, prolong their personal autonomy and participation in society. Not only will the elderly profit from the system, but also their families and caregivers, since the burden on them will be substantially reduced. CONFIDENCE aims to decrease the need of institutionalisation of the elderly.

The proposed system will work indoors. Information about the user's location, together with some environment information, will be analysed to decide whether to trigger an alarm. The system will be easy to use and will not constrain the user's daily life. The user will keep control of the system and can customise the alarm protocol.

In case of an abnormal situation such as a fall or an accident, CONFIDENCE will permit a rapid actuation of the health services, which will decrease the negative consequences of the accident (worsening of injuries, psychological impact of being alone and injured, etc.).

The result of this multidisciplinary research will be a working prototype. The end-users will be involved in the RTD activities by co-defining the specifications, monitoring the project and testing the lines prototype. The involvement of users at an early stage of the project will contribute to meeting their requirements and will increase the acceptability of the final system.

Description of target users and groups

The target group of CONFIDENCE have the following characteristics:

  • Elderly over 65 years
  • Cared or not by some kind of home assistance provided by Public Administration (Municipality or National Health Service)
  • Mobility independent and with no particular difficulty with ADL (activities of daily living)
  • With fear of falls
  • At risk of social exclusion

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The result of the research will be a working prototype. The end-users will be involved in the RTD activities by co-defining the specifications, monitoring and testing the project. This early user involvement will contribute to meet the user's requirements and will increase the acceptability of the final system.

The CONFIDENCE project will develop a care system. This care system will be able to reconstruct the user's posture and detect abnormal situations, such as falls or loss of consciousness. The system will raise an alarm if an abnormal situation is detected.

This care system will also be able to detect changes in the user's behaviour and issue a warning. For instance, if the system notices changes in the user's gait that may involve a lack of stability, the CONFIDENCE system will warn the user about an increased risk of falling, and prevent an accident. Detection of anomalous behaviour will utilise prior expert knowledge as well as learnt movement patterns of particular users.

An important characteristic of CONFIDENCE is that it will adapt itself to the user. One of the goals of the CONFIDENCE care system is to introduce only small and low cost changes in the user's home.

The system must be as simple as possible from the user's point of view. A complex system would cause reluctance among the users, who would regard it as a problem rather than as a solution. Therefore, the CONFIDENCE system will be easy to use, so that it does not limit the user's daily activity. The system consists of a central device, which plays the role of a base-station (BS), a small portable device (PD), which looks similar to a mobile phone, and several tags. The base-station will be placed inside the house and could be designed to look like a decorative item. It will be able to determine the position of each tag in three-dimensional (3D) space.

The portable device, which will automatically enter in a setup mode, will guide the user during the installation process and will indicate him/her where to place the tags. This is one of the innovative aspects of this solution, since the user can easily install the system by himself/ herself without any external help. The CONFIDENCE system is intuitive, easy to setup, and user-friendly, and, thus, the user feels independent from the beginning.

The user will have to wear small, low-cost tags, either in the form of bracelets to be worn on wrists and ankles or in the form of necklaces. If the user prefers it, the tags may be sewed into their clothes (socks, underwear, etc.).

Some other small devices may be needed indoors in order to increase the accuracy of the system. These devices will be placed in specific positions such as the bed, chairs or some other pieces of furniture.

Both the base-station and the portable device can raise an alarm or a warning. The base-station will have priority in indoor environments. Typically, the CONFIDENCE system follows the following alarm protocol: first, it makes a phone call to the user. If the user picks up the phone, he/she is requested to indicate that he/she feels well by pressing a button or telling a certain word. This stops the alarm. This way, the user keeps control of the system, which is an important feature and considerably reduces the false alarm rate.

The user decides who the system is calling in case of an alarm or warning: a relative, friend or to the emergency services. If the user does not pick up the phone in a certain time, the system makes a phone call to the first telephone in the list provided by the user. If nobody answers the phone, the system will call the following telephone in this alarm receiver list. The system will explain to the call recipient the reasons of the alarm or warning.

The user will be able to customise the alarm protocol and will select the time that the system waits for him to answer, before triggering the alarm. Additionally, the user will be able to allow the system to transmit all the available information about the situation: localisation, posture and how long the user has been in that posture. This information will help to react to the emergency call.

The main features of the CONFIDENCE system will be:

  • Reliability: this aspect is essential to increase the quality of life of the elderly. The system must have low false alarm rates.
  • Self-learning: that is, the system will "learn" from previous situations.
  • Non-intrusive: in order to preserve the user's privacy. Moreover, the user will keep control over the alarm protocol and location data will only be processed with the consent of the user and for the necessary duration for the provision of a value-added service. Thus, CONFIDENCE will follow the Directive 95/46/EC about the protection of personal data and the Directive 2002/58/EC about the protection of personal data in the electronic communication sector.
  • Ease of use: The system will be easy to use. Since it is a portable system it has to be easy to wear, so that it does not constrain the user's daily life.

Technology solution

Technology choice: Standards-based technology

Main results, benefits and impacts

ICT in combination with other technologies can play a major role in prolonging the personal autonomy and active participation in society of elderly people. In this respect, CONFIDENCE has the potential to enhance the independence and quality of life of elderly people.

Since CONFIDENCE will reduce their fear of falling or being left unattended in case of sudden trouble, the elderly people will feel safer and more confident at their own homes.

Not only will elderly people take advantage of CONFIDENCE, but also their relatives and caregivers will improve their quality of life, since they will bear a smaller burden. Additionally, in case of an abnormal situation such as a fall or an accident, CONFIDENCE will permit a rapid actuation of the health services, which will decrease the negative consequences of the accident (worsening of injuries, psychological impact of being alone and injured, etc.).

CONFIDENCE's goals are twofold:

  • There is the social advantage of a better quality of life for elderly people who live alone and their relatives. The elderly will prolong their active participation in the society, and their relatives will be less concerned.
  • The economic advantage has to be taken into account. As elderly people will be able to live longer on their own, with a higher quality of life and not in care institutions, there will be a cost reduction for the welfare state.

Lessons learnt

The targeted end-user of CONFIDENCE is a versatile and multifaceted group, ranging from elderly with an active lifestyle participating in numerous activities at a weekly basis, to elderly isolated from social interaction and physical activities. Experiences of technological solutions, health status as well as lifestyle in general differ among the individuals in the group. A user-centric approach is important when developing a product not only when it comes to being appealing to the targeted user. But also as a way of creating understanding and curiosity among the end-users and to empower the future users in engaging in the technical development that will be a vital part of their own life.

Scope: International