Open and remote access living lab

In July 2020, scientists from Heriot-Watt University launched what is believed to be the world’s first open and remote access living lab to research and create solutions for Ambient Assisted Living (OpenAAL).

The multi-disciplinary lab is targeting the co-creation of scalable and affordable solutions to support the care of vulnerable people, whose urgent was exemplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The OpenAAL lab is part of the National Robotarium, the DDI hub at Heriot-Watt University, and uses digital twin, Internet of Things (IoT) and Cloud technologies to provide a platform where researchers, industry and care providers, alongside end users of assisted living services, can co-create technology.

The platform, which utilises the facilities from Heriot-Watt’s existing living lab – a complete flat with adjoining workshop – will ensure both time and distance are no longer barriers to research and innovation.  It is hoped that, as the project expands, researchers from all over the world may use the space to collaborate.


Support for key groups

The project will initially support key priority groups in the UK whose conditions have been compounded by the social isolation measures necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. These include those with multi-health conditions, disabilities, and those in acute stages of mental ill health.

Heriot-Watt University has unique laboratory facilities and world-leading expertise including microsystems, (wireless) sensing, antenna, microwave and embedded systems, signal processing, data science, machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), human-computer-interaction and Robotics.

These technologies can be used to enable non-intrusive monitoring of behaviour and vital signs, detect patterns and trends in behaviour and individual health status, identify problems, support self-management, decision-making and risk assessment, triage issues, facilitate communication and social connectedness, and provide social, cognitive and physical assistance when needed.

Additional collaborators from the care sector are now urged to join the project. The Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS) will play a key role in connecting the project to members in its supporting organisations, including over 80 of the most significant care and support providers in Scotland’s third sector.


Practical and feasible

Dr Mauro Dragone, assistant professor at Heriot-Watt University, is leading the OpenAAL project. He said: “Our priority is to ensure that the devised solutions we create are practical and feasible, so they can be quickly implemented in the face of challenging social and economic conditions. There is huge potential to unify efforts and provide better support to the nation’s most vulnerable at this time. By combining the University’s unique laboratories with expertise in the care sector, we have the opportunity to tackle the current challenges head-on, but also establish long-term and cost-effective solutions to the wider challenges faced by individuals with assisted living needs in the home.

“Successful innovation in this field is crucial to alleviate the strain on our health and social care services and enhance the resilience of our communities. By collaborating across sectors and mobilising Scotland’s ground-breaking technology, this project has the potential to bridge considerable gaps in communication, break down institutional silos and facilitate wide-scale industry cooperation.”

The lab is also welcoming support from producers, suppliers and service companies of assistive technology, telecare, telehealth, smart home solutions, and other Internet of Things products, such as ambient sensors, alarm systems, wearable fitness devices, smart video calling software, and also network and infrastructure providers.


Collaborative approach

The National Robotarium is a world-leading centre for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. Its responsible and collaborative approach creates innovative solutions to global challenges. Its pioneering research develops new prototypes, supports early stage product development, and drives forward productivity. Key areas of research application include power systems, manufacturing, healthcare, human-robot interaction, assisted living, agritech and hazardous environments.

The project is funded by EPSRC under the Impact Acceleration Accounts scheme and is supported by NHS Lothian, The Digital Health and Care Institute (DHI), Blackwood Home and Care Group, Consequential Robotics, Alcuris Ltd, Cyberselves and The Data Lab – Scotland’s innovation centre for data and AI.

Robotic arm

Our priority is to ensure that the devised solutions we create are practical and feasible, so they can be quickly implemented in the face of challenging social and economic conditions

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