A short summary of the challenge addressed and the overall project idea
Ageing with autonomy represents a potential win/win perspective in terms of gains in quality of life for the growing groups of ageing people themselves and in savings for the social/care system. Government policies all over the EU aim to exploit this potential by facilitating elderly people to live independently as long as possible. In the Netherlands this resulted in a major decentralisation of all support and home care for elderly people to municipalities. Municipalities are looking for innovative approaches to stimulate self-reliance and autonomy of their older citizens. In economic terms, the call for ageing with autonomy represents an emerging market with tremendous scope for innovative convenience and support services that enable ageing people to remain comfortably independent even when they have to cope with limitations and impairments. This is especially true since the newly ageing generation is better educated and values their individuality and independence. They increasingly prefer to age with autonomy: instead of being cared for, they like to take care of themselves and their lives.
The My Life, My Way project will provide a Personal Virtual Assistant (PVA) that enables large groups of people to live independently longer by giving them an easy-to-use, most natural way to interact with supporting technology. The Personal Assistant (PA) is the result of a reliable and innovative technology. It is able to learn autonomously from its users, their personal preferences and needs. While the technology in the background is quite complex, for the end users the PA is a friendly, human-looking avatar on their screen (be it computer, TV , tablet or smart phone). They can speak to the PA using natural language (speech recognition). It is like a modern version of a butler: ssomeone that knows you very well, wishes the best for you and serves you decently in the background if possible and coming into the foreground if needed.
The PA consists of intelligent software that can integrate any existing and proven technology and home automation appliance available. That makes the PA highly flexible and modular. Rather than delivering a predefined set of services, the PA will combine those services that match the preferences and needs of the end user. These can include communication (by telephone, screen calls, email or reading the local news), home-based consumer technology, agenda maintenance to support daily structure, medicine alerts, supervision or exercise. Also, it can serve as an interface with services of formal social and medical care. Each end user defines for herself or together with her (in)formal caregivers which services she wants to use. Her PA will be tailor made for her wishes and will gradually learn more. The PA
can speak with a human voice and answer remarks and questions (speech synthesis). The PA can show emotions, enhancing the experience of a natural connection with the end user – neither too synthetic nor too real. One of the PA’s virtues is endless patience: it will not get annoyed when asked the same question several times.
The PA will not be developed from scratch. It has been created over the past 4 years as a private business initiative. The prototype as it exists now has been completed mainly with private investments and a contribution of AAL-programme in the context of the DALIA project. It has been tested and piloted with various groups of end users, living in different homes (both care centres and independent). Based on the results, improvements have been incorporated and by now, it functions well enough to have raised the interest of end users participating in the pilots, their informal caregivers (who experience a relief of physical and mental stress as a result of the PA) and formal care organisations (listed on page 1).
The MyLife,MyWay project will further develop this promising value proposition in close interaction with groups of elderly people living independently and in assisted-living apartments in order to respond even better to needs and wishes of end users in different EU countries. Also, MyLife,MyWay envisages the incorporation of crucial technological innovations that enhance market potential. These include a shared knowledge base and cloud-based, collaborative machine-learning mechanisms (Meta cognition) as well as the ability of the PA to be localised to specific regions fostering local dialects (an issue that turned out to be very important for the acceptance of the overall system, but is technically very challenging).
The partners in the consortium aim to develop this ICT-based solution in close cooperation with end users and their value chain from the very start of the project. Thus, future users and relevant organisations (be it in the field of care, housing, welfare or convenience services) will help to make the PA a daily tool for older adults and at the same time, get acquainted with the possibilities the PA offers as a front end for various support and care solutions. This will bring the value proposition closer to the European markets. The consortium elaborated a preliminary business model using the BUSINESS MODEL CANVAS methodology to ensure a consistent and pragmatic focus on target groups and their value network throughout the project. It also proved to be a useful tool in the composition of a balanced and coherent project proposal and in preparing a set of working packages that are mutually complementary and as a whole, will create synergetic effects.