Thursday, 19 November 2009

The TSA Conference 2009 report of exhibitors

The Telecare Services Association Conference 2009, Hilton London Metropole Hotel - Report of Exhibitors

Although there were loads of excellent people presenting their wares at the Conference certain ones were found by the author to warrant considerable attention.

The NEAT dispersed alarm supplied by Possum

First up is the NEAT dispersed alarm that Possum had on their stall. Apart from the size and design quality/looks there are a number of excellent features that make this something to watch. Firstly the dispersed alarm unit is small and thin with three buttons which are clear. The unit has a voice unit which can pick up on someone calling for help and trigger an alert to the call centre (the round item in the middle of the picture with the red button on it). The other thing that I really like is the fact that the unit and each device provide a handshake. The handshake means that each device can communicate with the other devices in a smarter fashion as information can go bi-directionally. This opens many possibilities. The main possibility demonstrated to me was the fact that if a device fails by using a simple pendant you can easily find the failing device as the handshake will not occur, as demonstrated by a light on a pendant.

Another thing that I really liked was the fact that each device works in its own state. In this way the system can be a standalone system that can send an alert to the pager in the bottom right of the picture alerting the carer that the person is in difficulties. Any device can be set to do this without the need for the dispersed alarm. Furthermore the pager can be set to have a range of functions such as pass the alert to another pager or accept the alert. The most obvious benefit I can see for this is in supported living services where care staff might require extra help or the person themselves can start to use technology to enable a more independent lifestyle.

The other most important thing the NEAT system can do is to act as a wayfinding device to assist the user in maintaining independence. This can split the house into various zones and these zones can be defined by the practitioner or family or person. If you go out of zone then it is up to the practitioners or family to determine the best course of action. This is just the beginning of what this system can do so keep your eyes open for news on the NEAT system.

The Halliday James Ltd stall where Bernard Wignall demonstrated the excellent range of technologies that they have developed to support wayfinding. These include mobile phones, simple pendants with GPS and GSM capabilities as well as handheld units that have maps and so forth on them. What impressed me with this is the way in which the person using the technology was always at the forefront of all the design ideas and decisions. The two best products demonstrated were the HTC smartphone in the top of the table that can provide a decision support system for people with memory problems. This is very similar to the things I saw in the USA a few years ago but done better and clearer allowing user pictures to be integrated in to the demonstration and decision support software. Best of all for the first time I have seen a tool that meets my criteria for assisting someone to make a cup of tea. This is excellent!!!

The other standout item from Halliday James Ltd was the standard looking watch below the mapping device in the picture. This is a normal watch and could be the person’s own watch but the strap has a GPS/GSM unit built into the base – out of sight. Therefore the unit looks like normal watch but is actually as wayfinding device. Simple good design shining through again.

The Chubb Fall detector

The third company stall that had something standout to show was Chubb Community Care who finally produced two things I have been looking forward to, and they have been promising, for some time. The first is the new fall detector which as the picture shows is a wrist worn device. It looks like many other wrist worn devices and has a black emergency call button on it. In actual fact it looks just like a standard pendant on a wrist strap but actually is a fall detector that will detect ‘out of ordinary bumps’. When a fall alarm is raised, the technology will vibrate immediately, during this period if the user does not want to send out the signal of the alarm, they just have to move their arm which will cancel the alarm. If this is not done then a call will be sent through the IntelliLink carephone or to the Carer Alert so the appropriate response can be sent”. Its not rocket science to see that this is fraught with potential possibilities for falls to be canceled as the person is crawling along the floor or some such activity that mimics the cancellation mode. But to their credit it is a well designed and well thought out piece of kit. If the person does decide to wave their arms in the air after a true fall and cancel the signal it can still be reactivated by pressing the black button. So a fail-safe is in place. I am looking forward to testing these out.

Another thing by Chubb that I have been waiting for is the blue flexible mat that acts as a bed occupancy sensor (BOS). This is currently not to be found by me on their website. This is the mat shown above the standard BOS mat. The reason for this mat being exciting is that it can be used on pressure relieving mattresses which inflate and deflate. I am also pleased to see it connected to the new Chubb Bed Occupancy Monitor which enables personalised timing features so that these devices can finally be timed to meet the needs of the person.

This proves to be a valuable conference for many reasons. Not only is it the place to meet and touch base with the Telecare Gurus, but it is also the place to find out what the future direction for Telecare is to be. But for me, the best thing is to see how some manufacturers are still churning out the same things whilst others are beginning to see the true potential of listening to the people who use their devices.

Thursday, 18 June 2009


The Digital Access Project which is part of the Assisted Living Innovation platform ALIP have produced released the first of the demonstrations from a venture I worked on. It is available here. Currently only two videos are available but the scenarios are hopefully useful.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Some web publicity

I have recently featured in two ventures I am pleased to be part of one working with the UK consumer affairs magazine Which? and the other an interview with Hometoys Emagazine which is the smart home site. Versions of these are available on line:

The Which? article can be found at
The Hometoys piece can be found at - Amended link sorry for the previous error.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Defining Telecare

Tele (at a distance) Care.

Any attempt to define Telecare is fraught with contradictions. Here I try to demonstrate the wealth and diversity of the various definitions of Telecare. Let's start with a definition on TelecareAware which comes from an unknown source but is a good lead in:

Telecare is the continuous, automatic and remote monitoring of real time emergencies and lifestyle changes over time in order to manage the risks associated with independent living.”
Steve Hards ( (accessed Dec 2008).

Defining Telecare is not simple. The definition above contrasts with the following definition by NHS Purchasing and Supply (PASA):

"Telecare describes any service that brings health and social care directly to a user, generally in their homes, supported by information and communication technology. It covers social alarms, lifestyle monitoring and telehealth (remote monitoring of vital signs for diagnosis, assessment and prevention).

“Telecare covers a wide range of equipment (detectors, monitors, alarms, pendants etc) and services (monitoring, call centres and response).

“Telecare equipment is provided to support an individual in their home and tailored to meet their needs. Telecare services range from a basic community alarm service that is able to respond to an emergency and provide regular contact by telephone to an integrated system that includes detectors or monitors (i.e. motion, falls, fire and gas) that trigger a warning to a response centre. More complex systems include telemedicine, which is designed to complement healthcare via monitoring vital signs such as blood pressure. Data is transmitted to a response centre or clinician’s computer where it is monitored against parameters set by the individual’s clinician." (accessed Dec 2008)

Telecare utilises information and communication technologies to transfer medical information for the diagnosis and therapy of patients in their place of domicile.
(Norris A C, 2002, 4)

A distinct problem with Telecare is its lack of a clear definition. Moreover, the definition of Telecare is constantly modifying depending on who is writing or what the current “in word” is. The first definition above situates Telecare within the social framework whereas the second situates it clearly as medically allied, whilst the third definition sees Telecare as solely a medical intervention transferring medical information. To add to the discussion the Department of Health’s Care Service Improvement Partnership (CSIP) emphasises the remote monitoring aspects of it as well as its use in reducing admissions in their definition:

"Telecare is a broad term which encompasses a wide range of technologies with remote monitoring that can support people to remain independent and potentially reduce the frequency of hospital and care home admissions as well as give peace of mind and reassurance to users, carers and their families." (accessed Dec 2008)

Whereas for David Bradley et al (2002) Telecare is a purely medical allied intervention, when the define Telecare as:

“An holistic approach to the remote provision of healthcare, assistance and monitoring in a community setting, via the use of appropriate technologies, in order to assure client well being.” (Bradley, Williams, Brownsell and Levy (2002) 'Community alarms to telecare – The need for
a systems strategy for integrated telehealth provision' Technology and Disability 14, 64.)

This can be contrasted with Kevin Doughty's recent definition of Telecare as an umbrella term for Domestic AT systems.

"Telecare has become the umbrella term for all assistive and medical technologies that depend on modular, relatively inexpensive and quickly deployed, electronic devices and/or telecommunication systems that help people to maximise their independence within the home environment." (Doughty K, 2007, “Telecare Practice and Potential”).

What is clear is Telecare means different things to different people. Moreover the term Telecare is a euphemism for whatever the new policy of the day is.

The author describes Telecare as the ability to harness simple technology to enable and empower people such that they can live independently in the community. Telehealth and Telemedicine are technological applications which centre on the health aspects of the person and supporting them in the home or hospital. This though is very close to the first definition offered by Steve Hards.

Without a clear strong fixed and universally accepted definition of Telecare, how can Telecare services develop plans and ensure that the people who require Telecare receive the correct information and services?