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Greater Mobility and Safety for Older People: European Project Researches New Technologies

How can my smartphone detect whether I am in an emergency situation? Can I still continue to live at home with the help of intelligent technology even if I require care? Is it possible to integrate tracking technology into the clothing of dementia sufferers? These and similar questions are currently being investigated by a consortium made up of representatives from industry, research and care providers in the »MOBECS« (Mobility and Emergency Call System) project. This international research project is being funded with around two million euros for a period of three years as part of the European Ambient Assisted Living Joint Programme (AAL-JP).

The goal of the consortium is to develop a mobile technology that offers older people assistance at their current location and automatically alerts a central service platform in emergency situations. Development of this technology can benefit independent older people and residents in assisted living facilities and care homes as well as people with physical or mental disabilities.

Within the scope of the project, the objective is to combine familiar functions such as navigation aids and person tracking via GPS with new methods of automatic event and emergency detection. For this purpose, acceleration and motion sensors, GPS modules, microphones and cameras will be integrated in portable devices as well as in clothing and accessories such as belts and wristwatches. By analysis and comparison of the various sensor data, the system will be able to automatically detect critical situations and then forward this information to a care provider via a web-based service platform.

»The modular technology can be adapted to different usage scenarios, « explains Professor Frank Wallhoff, Scientific Adviser of the Project Group Hearing, Speech and Audio Technology in Oldenburg and MOBECS coordinator. »It is also planned, for example, to integrate orientation aids and automatic emergency detection in standard commercially available smartphones. «

Accompanying studies on user acceptance and user-orientated design for operation of the technology will be conducted in close cooperation with the care institutions participating in the project. A further area to be investigated in the project is the necessary technical infrastructure as well as the personnel requirement for a service platform with call centre. The goal is to have initial technology prototypes available for field tests in two years. Sales and marketing via the existing channels of the industry partners is planned at a later point in time.

The Ambient Assisted Living Joint Programme (AAL-JP) was established in September 2007 and is a transnational research and development funding programme in Europe. Within the scope of international research projects, the goal of this programme is to develop information and communication technologies and age-based assistance systems that enhance the quality of life, particularly for older people. As part of this initiative, the MOBECS project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT), the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology (BBT) in Switzerland and from European funds. The partners in the project are the Oldenburg Project Group Hearing, Speech and Audio Technology of the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT as the coordinating partner, Beeware GmbH, Goslar, Ilper-Elektronik GmbH&Co.KG, Tarmstedt, IP Communications GmbH, Linz, Austria, Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe e. V, Bern, and the care home Sonnweid AG, Wetzikon, Switzerland.

Project Coordinator Prof. Frank Wallhoff Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT Project Group Hearing, Speech and Audio Technology Marie-Curie-Straße 2 26126 Oldenburg Germany Phone +49 441 2172 432 Fax +49 441 2172 450 frank.wallhoff@idmt.fraunhofer.de

idw :: 31.08.2012