Hampshire County Council has teamed up with a telehealthcare provider to turn Amazon’s Echo technology into a homecare aid which helps elderly or disabled people to live more independently.
Argenti Telehealthcare and the council are trialling a customised version of the Echo device to help support people to live independently in their own homes for longer, and reduce social isolation in the elderly.
The Amazon Echo is a voice-activated home speaker with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, powered by the Alexa software. Echo users can add new ‘skills’ to the device and then simply “ask Alexa” to remind them to take medication or check when their carer is due to arrive.
“We are looking to trial this new technology with 50 adult social care clients in Hampshire, to help support and manage their needs within their own homes and avoid the need for additional care packages,” said councillor Liz Fairhurst, Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Health.
“This is a world first for Hampshire County Council and our care technology partners. Working directly with Amazon will ensure our trial is backed by the experience of one of the biggest internet-based retailers in the world. We are very excited about the possibilities this project could open up in the future, and its potential to benefit the future of social care.”
The specially designed new Alexa software in the Amazon Echo devices is expected to be in use in the testers’ homes by the end of the year – with the project running throughout 2018.
Over the next year, the County Council, with its care technology partner, is planning to develop a range of new ‘skills’, linking Alexa to other technology in people’s homes. Ideas include reminding people to stay hydrated by linking Alexa to movement sensors around the home, so that when a person enters their kitchen they can be prompted to take a drink.
Alexa could also be used to encourage people to keep fit, by suggesting local walking routes of different lengths. Partially sighted or socially-isolated service users could particularly benefit by asking Alexa for information via the Amazon Echo system, for example; the weather forecast, latest news, or to switch on digital radio or play an audiobook.
Earlier this year, AMP reported on a new homecare app which has been specifically designed for Amazon Echo. Moves like this are increasingly common and show how technology is playing a growing role in homecare. It also demonstrates that retail giants like Amazon are spying more opportunities in the health and independent living market.