Hampshire council encourages residents to Just ask Alexa

Hampshire County Council is set to become the first ever local authority to pilot new Amazon Echo technology to support older people needing care.

Working with the County Council’s telehealthcare partner, the PA Consulting Group-led Argenti Telehealthcare Partnership, the authority is working with Amazon to trial a customised version of their Echo device to help support people to live independently in their own homes for longer, and reduce social isolation in the elderly.

Echo users can add new ‘skills’ to the device and then simply “ask Alexa” to remind them to take medication or check when their carer is due to arrive.

Councillor Liz Fairhurst, Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Health, said: “We are looking to trial this new technology with 50 adult social care clients in Hampshire, to help support and manage their needs within their own homes and avoid the need for additional care packages.

“This is a world first for Hampshire County Council and our care technology partners. Working directly with Amazon will ensure our trial is backed by the experience of one of the biggest internet-based retailers in the world. We are very excited about the possibilities this project could open up in the future, and its potential to benefit the future of social care.”

The specially designed new Alexa software in the Amazon Echo devices is expected to be in use in the testers’ homes by the end of the year – with the project running throughout 2018.

Over the next year, the County Council, with its care technology partner, is planning to develop a range of new ‘skills’, linking Alexa to other technology in people’s homes. Ideas include reminding people to stay hydrated by linking Alexa to movement sensors around the home, so that when a person enters their kitchen they can be prompted to take a drink.

Alexa could also be used to encourage people to keep fit, by suggesting local walking routes of different lengths. Partially sighted or socially-isolated service users could particularly benefit by asking Alexa for information via the Amazon Echo system, for example; the weather forecast, latest news, or to switch on digital radio or play an audiobook.

Steve Carefull, adult social care expert at PA Consulting Group and Programme Director for the Argenti Telehealthcare Partnership added: “Our work with the County Council is industry leading, and we are proud to be working with one of the biggest household names to help Hampshire County Council continue to deliver innovative services to the most vulnerable people. This technology can complement support from human carers and help ensure resources are focused on supporting those with the greatest needs.”

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