Brussels, 6 January 2011
Digital Agenda: simple smart phones and remote controls help elderly and disabled to manage their homes
With €2.7 million of EU funding, researchers from the Czech Republic, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Sweden have developed a solution to give elderly and disabled people easier control over the various electronic appliances and services in their homes using their mobile phone or other devices. The "I2HOME" project has developed a personalised and simplified Universal Remote Console interface based on existing and evolving open standards. This interface can be in a universal remote control, a mobile phone, a computer or other devices and can be used to, for example, switch on and programme washing machines, lighting, heating, air conditioning, TVs, DVD players/recorders and other household devices. The technology can also be applied outside the home. Harnessing information and communications technologies to support dignified and high quality independent living for the elderly, visually impaired or people with cognitive disabilities is one of the key objectives of the Digital Agenda for Europe, adopted by the European Commission in May 2010 (IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199, MEMO/10/200).
Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda said: "I am delighted that EU-funded research projects like I2HOME can harness information technologies to make life simpler for all EU citizens, including the elderly, disabled and visually impaired."
As sales of TVs, DVD players, and other household appliances keep growing, the interfaces through which they are operated are increasingly designed with only technology-savvy or digitally-aware consumers in mind. As a result, many people find it difficult to use modern technologies at home. Unless this problem is overcome, these people will be increasingly prevented from participating in and fully benefiting from the digital society.
Researchers at universities, institutes and companies in the Czech Republic, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Sweden have aligned access technology such as remote controls to the needs of blind people, people with cognitive impairments, Alzheimer patients and the elderly. For instance, the technology helps people with cognitive disabilities to be more independent by making it simpler to perform tasks like changing the TV channel or getting reminders about daily activities, including when they are travelling or visiting family. For people with poor sight, visual control menus are replaced by a speech interface.
By developing and applying the ISO open standard for Universal Remote Consoles combined with personalised guidance, the I2HOME solution proposes a consistent personalised user interface that can at the same time operate and control different devices and services such as heating, air conditioning and ventilation, cookers, washing machines, dishwashers and lights.
I2HOME has been tested in day-care centres and home settings in 4 pilot sites in the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain and Sweden and more than 100 organisations and companies in Europe already use or work with I2HOME technology.
Other applications of this technology are used in the EU-funded BrainAble project which also helps people with disabilities by improving direct as well as indirect interaction with devices thanks to brain sensors that can measure feelings like boredom, confusion, frustration or information overload.
I2HOME technology is also applied to energy saving with projects like Smart Energy for All (SEFA). Fostering sustainability, SEFA aims to reduce the energy footprint of companies and citizens by providing a console that allows the central monitoring and control of all aspects of energy and water consumption.
I2HOME was funded under the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme for research. The EU allocated €2.7 million funding to I2HOME.
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