The main body of research clearly highlights the world’s population is rapidly expanding. When this fact is combined with the increase in life longevity due to medical and social advances it alters the demographic balance in relation to age. Hence, the number of people aged 65 and over is constantly increasing. The potential of Smart Technologies and IoT-based devices to improve health has increased rapidly in the last few years and users are now in a position to contribute to the development of the interaction process and need to be properly trained on benefits of using new technologies. IFTTT (If This Then That), Blockly, and other similar tools provide a new perspective on web-based services, and represent an innovative and inclusive instrument to manage small automated tasks between Internet-connected devices by using a simplified inter ‐ action approach.
The main research question of this work is: how could senior users benefit and adopt smart devices in a proficient way and how can emerging technologies such as automation services enhance safety, health and well-being for people with different abilities? The research method is based on a participatory, Inclusive Design approach, developed through interviews and focus groups, among a restricted number of people of different age and gender, design and usability tests in the further stage. The aim of the work is to make existing technologies more accepted, usable and inclusive for as many people as possible.
This goal will be achieved by analysis and by creating a set of interactive and easy to use information and tools for automating different processes, to improve the performance in Activities of Daily Living and increase the connection and socialization between citizens, their family and friends. Applets for Seniors could be seen as a different approach to enable users with different abilities in interacting in a friendly way with new technologies and could be also used as a User Experience facilitator for people who are not familiar with smart devices.
STATE OF THE ART – BACKGROUND
Smart Technologies and Interactive Devices
Smart devices are considered to be part of the future of the global economy, especially in relation to the growing ageing population. On the basis of a recent survey from Link Age society conducted on 1789 users aged 65 and more, it is possible to demonstrate that senior users represent a booming business in the technological consumer market.
The Link Age study showed that 41% of ageing users own a personal computer, while 61% own a cell phone and 31% an Internet connection. The generation of so called “Silver Surfers” have a chance to get closer to the world of technology thanks to the “consumerisation” phenomenon which makes the devices more accessible, affordable and usable.
IFTTT supports more than 110 services or channels that goes from business, to productivity, to smart home, to education, to fitness. Some of them can be summarized in the following infographic, which has been created in December 2016, by analysing and collecting all the categories of products and services that are available to be used with the IFTTT system. The image shows different field of application where different existing devices, already on the market, can be easily used with the IFTTT tool (Fig. 1).
Among these systems and services, there are different conditions that could be analysed, in order to have a clearer view of the potentialities. Some of the existing services have been developed to be used, on a cloud-based environment, some on a stand-alone modality, some on a proprietary structure instead of open source and are eligible for different support platforms.
How can we enable users in an inclusive way? This question drives one of the major challenges that the European commission seeks to have addressed. This challenge is especially focused on those users who suffer from physical or intellectual impairments or those who may simply have some issues in performing certain Activities of Daily Living, through many different calls, part of the Programme Horizon 2020.
Considering the majority of the web-based services for task automation, for reasons mentioned in the previous section, they could be seen as an innovative, but not a wholly disruptive “problem solver” in this space. Nevertheless, they appear to offer a hidden potential that would empower certain group of users in benefits the capacities of IoT- based devices.
RESULTS: RECIPES FOR ENABLING SENIOR CITIZENS
In order to identify a restricted number of case studies, useful for designing recipes for senior citizens, the focus group activities have been driven towards completing four different cards that deal with some of the main ADLs previously mentioned (Fig. 2). Each participant was asked to fill up the cards, with the action that could possibly belong to the so called trigger channel (If) and with another sentence corresponding as an action channel (Do).
This activity represented the first, decisive step in defining the concepts of new IFTTT applets, that could answer the specific needs of the growing ageing population. For example, if a family member wished to know if the parent or grandparent has woken up and is performing usual ADLs, it is possible to set up a series of applets that are linked to signals coming from smoke detectors, presence or occupancy sensors, smart gas or water meters, that could notify with an email, or message or call on caregiver or familiar’s phones, if in the morning the users wake up normally, and started to prepare breakfast or toileting.
It is known that nowadays many personal devices, such as wearables, smartphones, tablets, or house appliances such as smoke detectors, learning thermostats, smart lighting systems, presence sensors and many others can be connected in the cloud and are supported by many Web based services for task automation. The idea of using different existing smart devices, and linking them with IFTTT protocols or similar tools would enable more people, even if not addicted to technology, to access information and use them in a more productive way. In order to benefit from the potential of all these technologies and to enable Senior citizens to use these facilities in a safe, productive way and to increase the inner level of security at home, the aim of this part of research was to identify a certain number of sample applets that can be easily delivered to an audience of ageing users or weakness users.
The adopt ed strategy is to make existing technologies more accepted, usable and inclusive, by leveraging groups of expert stakeholders to create a set of interactive and easy to use in formation and tools for automating different processes, to improve the performance in Activities of Daily Living and to increase the connection and socialization between people, family members and friends. This preliminary pilot study highlighted the potential of this research and the impact on inclusivity and on making smart devices us able and acceptable by Senior people depending on their abilities and education.
The future works and stages of research, will have to be conducted by applying the Quality Function Deployment Method, in order to transfer specific needs of a defined group of ageing users in to empirical solutions applicable by using applets designed for enabling senior citizens, family and friends. After this stage is complete, it will be possible to design and develop a set of applets, shaped to answer to the more demanding issues that the majority of senior citizens have.
Source: Dublin Institute of Technology
Authors: Matteo Zallio | Damon Berry | John McGrory