Novicept as an example for ubiquity

Our discussion about whether or not our senior citizen will and can use technology, has led us to a number of examples where technology is being embraced by the elders and some others where despite the efford of the designers, the elderly just wouldn’t buy it. These examples has made it clear that it is not easy to design technology for the elderly, and that they should be viewed as an target market in its own right. The fact that the group “elderly” is constantly changing (i.e. the elderly of today are not the same as those in a couple of years, and so will be the problems with new technology they face) makes this even harder from an economic point of view. Aid concerning technology designed for the elderly of today will be totally redundant in a couple of years, when the elderly of that time will have had plenty of time to accumulate to such technology. Therefore the question has been raised whether the concept of “ubiquity” could give a solution to this problem because when there is no technology to see, or no different “way of working” to adapt to, we can’t make a problem out of it. Whether this theoretical idea works in practice is of course difficult to see. But after some search I found this project. Digitale Media (EDM) has designed the concept NOVICEPT. NOVICEPT is a touchscreen device embodying all technological assistance an elderly person can use in a service flat. Some features included in this system are for example being able to control the lights, make a call, do E-shopping or even use it as a remote for all the other (incomprehensible) electronic devices at home. Also some medical applications are included like taking the blood pressure or communicating with their doctor. In short: amost all the electronic devices an elder person could have or need at home are included in or controlled by this device. Of course all this would be worthless if the system would be as difficult to control as the devices it bundles, therefore one of the main goals the designers have been to make it as easy to use as possible. Although in my humble opinion it still looks a bit too complicated, it already is a major improvement on the difficult devices our senior citizens have to work with nowadays. The question now is off course thus: how do the seniors react to it? The device has been tested in a number of service flats giving some perspective on how the habitants react to such a device. Mainly the elderly where reserved at first, but as they learned more things that they could do with it, and got used to the device, the participants embraced the concept. In this next movie (sadly enough only in dutch) this concept and some of the people they have tried it out on are explained by one of the designer.

An interesting part is where he explaines that they noticed that there were 3 types of elderly in respect to new technology. -People who don’t want the device, and never will -The more “doubting” people who say “I don’t think this will work for me” and -The more “innovative” elders who are willing to try out a new “feature” And as the narrators says, it are those last people who will make the second type become more lenient towards the technology to a point where they will even get interested into it. What strikes me to this explanation is that it was not at all new for me, it were the same concepts used in “everyday life” marketing, where the ‘early adapters will pull the other people towards a certain product. This concept is another prove of the theory I was talking about earlier in this post, that the elderly should be approached as a market on it’s own.

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4 Responses to Novicept as an example for ubiquity

  1. geoffreybastiaens says:

    I think that bundling these features in one easy to use interface like shown above is a good solution. In my opinion we can, and will, go even further. Home automation (Dutch: “domotica”) will become a basic feature of future houses. Being able to monitor your energy and water consumption, controlling the lights, the heating and even digital television through one simple interface will become the most common thing in our modern houses. Accordingly, people will get used to this “omni-controlling touch screen” from an early age on. Integrating features to monitor the general health of the user(s) will save lives. In fact, technology like this (but even simpler) is already doing so.

    In 2003 M-Elect, the department cardiology of the Salvator Hospital in Hasselt and Proximus started a project to monitor patients with irregular blood pressure, without them coming to the hospital or being visited by a doctor. Using only blood pressure monitors upgraded with a Bluetooth chip and a regular cellphone, the patients could be monitored in the comfort of their homes. All the patient has to do is put the wrist band of the monitor around his arm and press ‘START’. The measured data is sent to the cellphone using Bluetooth after which a text message is sent to a secure website containing the patients file and accessible by the doctor. If an irregularity occurs, the doctor will be contacted immediately by text message, email or even fax. The scientist hope to extend the project’s range for instance with diabetes patients and asthma patients.

    Studies show that using this kind of daily monitoring will decrease the chance of hospitalization with 50 or even 70%. This is a win-win situation for the patient, the insurance company and even the government.

    Similar methods already saved a lot of lives. Patients with hart problems can be monitored on a daily basis in the comfort of their homes which increases the chance of discovering a imminent heart failure. When people have to rely on a doctor, they will generally see a doctor once every 6 to 8 weeks, which is not sufficient.

    We are already using technology to improve our health situation. Integrating it in an interface like above will make it less like a chore to check your general health. It will be just another thing you do every day, like turning on the lights, watching TV or making coffee.

    • Those domotica and monitoring devices indeed are very prommissing, I have found yet another example like I have given in my post but this time designed by an Austrian-German team But there is one pitfall that we must be aware off. All those devices and support may not result in the elderly being left alone and not seeing anyone, because one of the main aspects of using technology around the elderly is to improve their life. And ask any elderly, the would prefer one caring person above a million technological aids.

  2. Pingback: Experimentation | The elderly are eager to use technology that will facilitate their lives

  3. Pingback: Economic orientation | The elderly are eager to use technology that will facilitate their lives

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