Hampshire asks Alexa for help with social care pilot

Hampshire council is to work with Amazon to develop a customised version of their Echo home speaker device, as part of a social care pilot.

The local authority will work with the Argenti Telehealthcare Partnership and the Internet giant to develop new software for the device, which will 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. Users can simply “ask Alexa” to remind them to take medication or check when their carer is due to arrive.

The pilot scheme will develop a range of new skills, linking Alexa to other technology in people’s homes.

Possible 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.

‘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 executive member for adult social care, Liz Fairhurst.

‘This is a world first for Hampshire 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.

Steve Carefull, adult social care expert at PA Consulting Group and programme director for the Argenti Telehealthcare Partnership added: ‘Our award winning work with the council is industry leading, and we are proud to be working with one of the biggest household names to help Hampshire council continue to deliver innovative services to the most vulnerable people. This technology can complement support from human carers and help ensure resources are focused on supporting those with the greatest needs.’

Senior reporter

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