Academics and industry unite to improve dementia patients' lives

An EU-funded project has linked scientists with experts in industry to forge partnerships aimed at creating new products to improve the lives of people with dementia. The research is creating tools to help remind people with dementia to undertake the tasks critical to their daily lives.

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Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czechia
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia


 

Published: 6 April 2020  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
Health & life sciencesHealth & ageing  |  Major diseases  |  Public health
Information societyInformation technology
Innovation
International cooperation
Research policyHorizon 2020
SMEs
Countries involved in the project described in the article
Argentina  |  Colombia  |  Ireland  |  Italy  |  Korea  |  Netherlands  |  Norway  |  Spain  |  Sweden  |  United Kingdom
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Academics and industry unite to improve dementia patients' lives

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© Chris Nugent, 2019

Dementia currently affects around 10 million people in the EU, with that number expected to double by 2030. Dementia already costs European economies USD 300 billion per year, according to the World Health Organization, and an effective pharmacological treatment for the condition still appears to be a long way off.

People with dementia tend to experience impairments that make it hard to remember to undertake the tasks necessary for daily life. Until now, efforts to remind people to complete such tasks have typically used mobile phones, but not all patients are comfortable using a mobile device; they may find it too complicated or they might not understand how it works and they may lose it.

To tackle this challenge, the EU-funded REMIND project has connected academics and pioneers in industry to investigate whether the mobile phone is really the best option and to push forward the development of alternative technological solutions to improve the lives of people with dementia.

A key innovation consists in algorithmic processes for handling information from thermal tracking devices that allow reminders to be delivered to users wherever they are in their home through digital TV, digital radio or smart speakers. The REMIND project uses low-resolution thermal tracking devices to locate people and protect privacy.

‘We don’t really want to put a camera in someone’s bathroom or bedroom, that’s a real invasion of privacy, so we’ve developed some state-of-the-art algorithms that will help us understand how many people are in the environment, what they are doing, who they are interacting with and what the likelihood is that a reminder should be delivered at a specific time,’ says project coordinator Chris Nugent of Ulster University in the United Kingdom.

Enabling independent living

One major challenge for REMIND is incorporating the theory of behavioural science with the tools and techniques of computer science. The researchers aim to use this shared knowledge to develop solutions that work within a smart environment – for example, a home or a shopping centre that can understand who is there and what their intention might be.

‘Coupled with a daily agenda, we want to take all of that information to create a reminding solution,’ says Nugent. ‘That reminder might be “take your medication”, “eat some food”, “see your doctor”, or “meet a family member”. If we deliver that reminder while they are in the smart environment, we can understand where that person is, for example, in the kitchen. If we are able to determine where they are, we can try to determine what their next move will be and we can push information to them through a smart device using a text message or a picture or an audio message.’

The work has so far led to the publication of 13 peer-reviewed research papers, as well as the ongoing development of smart devices for individuals with dementia. Their development relies on six smart environment labs created to facilitate the research and testing.

Cross-fertilisation of knowledge

The 16 institutions from 10 countries within and outside EU involved in the project include academic experts in intelligent systems, context-aware computing and artificial intelligence, along with user bodies such as Alzheimer’s associations. These researchers are working with industrial partners with expertise in software development standards and the regulatory issues around the development of new healthcare technologies.

‘If we wish to introduce a new reminding solution based on, for example, thermal sensors, then we need to adhere to healthcare regulatory processes – the companies we are working with are providing the support for that,’ says Nugent.

Project details

  • Project acronym: REMIND
  • Participants: United Kingdom (Coordinator), Spain, Ireland, Sweden, Italy, Norway, Netherlands, Argentina, South Korea, Colombia
  • Project N°: 734355
  • Total costs: € 1 084 500
  • EU contribution: € 976 500
  • Duration: January 2017 to December 2020

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