Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) – Forum 2013

The Ambient Assisted Living is a Joint Programme with the aim of enhancing the quality of life of older people and strengthening the industrial base in Europe through ICT. The AAL Forum 2013 was held in Norrköping from September 24 to 26 and we had the opportunity to interact with a community that is taking a step forward in the development of solutions to enhance the independence of elderly population.

During this forum, the benefits of ICT solutions for health were clearly expressed, including:

  • Changing the traditional health systems from reactive care to preventive care, by constantly monitoring the conditions of each person.
  • Incrementing the independence that a person can have in its daily life by means of ICT solutions; this helps on one side to reduce the expenditures associated with persons inside a facility and, on the other side–and more importantly–it allows people to feel active for more years and in the comfort of their own home.

What does the European AAL market offers today: many challenges, especially for SMEs that are managing their way within an industry that in still working its regulatory framework. Similar challenges to other industries working in solutions related to Internet-of-Things (IoT) emerge during the presentations:

  • Established institutions and players are used to make things in a way and are not willing to change or adapt to new technologies.
  • Dominant players do not want to take a step into these alternatives because they lose control of their market.
  • It is a fragmented, niche market and solutions should be localized in order to work properly.
  • An interesting finding was that in this conference, it was constantly repeated that the lack of proper policy and legislation is preventing innovation to reach a mature state.

Is it interesting to see how the concerns regarding the lack of regulation where expressed and at the same time there is an on-going certification programs for devices aiming to create interoperable personal connected health solutions (Continua Health Alliance). Their certification program is restricted to the communication between the “health device” and the “personal device hub” (which could be a mobile phone or a home computer). The Danish government has adopted the “Continua” certification program, therefore, it one device is attempting to provide home monitoring, it must be certified first. Qualcomm is part of the program as well and is working on certified chipsets.

Scaling up solutions and creating long-term sustainable network is the next step for on-going efforts, including the AALIANCE2. The universAAL project has started to produce an open platform by a mixture of new development and consolidation of state-of-the-art results from existing initiatives, establishing and running a sustainable community, as it develops into one consolidated, validated and standardised European open AAL platform.

AAL is a huge vertical silo on its own, some argued that is not feasible to have a shared platform and separate solutions should be dedicated to telemedicine (remote clinical health care), eHealth (general support of healthcare practice), mHealth (use of mobile devices to support medicine and public health practices) and retail devices; even if all of the previously mentioned platforms are devoted to manage health-related services.

It was stimulating to know that our vision from IoT and M2M studies is also shared within this community:

  • During the conference, several speakers highlighted their view that ICT should be taken only as the enabler but it will not lead the service redesign.
  • It corresponds to heavily interdisciplinary solutions that must deal with very different ways of thinking, sometimes slowing down or even preventing some solutions to become a reality.
  • It is unnecessary to devote funding to projects that end up “reinventing the wheel”, the next efforts should be put into finding the gaps to reach the market. Companies can choose from available industrial standards, but in order to scale up solutions through interoperability, actions are still needed to close the gap between R&D and the market in this sector.
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