Senior citizens often need support to live independently and actively participate in their communities. The EU-funded Alfred project came up with a Personal Interactive Assistant to help the elderly overcome the obstacles preventing them from carrying out everyday tasks.
The project created a virtual ‘butler’ to which people can talk, ask questions or give commands, and developed systems to encourage older people to socialise by suggesting and managing events, to monitor their state of health, and to help them stay physically and mentally active via personalised games. It produced 25 apps, both for immediate use and to inspire developers interested in designing new services that target the needs of senior citizens.
The Alfred project brought together expertise and technology from a range of different areas: ubiquitous computing, big data, gaming, the semantic web, cyber physical systems, the internet of things, the internet of services, and human-computer interaction. A key element of the project was a voice recognition technology that it developed: this is particularly helpful for older people, who may not be confident using mobile devices or may have trouble viewing small screens clearly.
Researchers also worked on body sensors that can be worn as part of an undershirt to monitor heart rate, breathing, temperature, movement and other indicators. This data can be shared with carers, medical staff and family members. In addition, the games they devised to slow down the development of physical and mental impairments included an exercise game for improving coordination and balance and a multiplayer dancing game. The project also benefited from the EU’s Lean Launchpad Initiative, which helped it to develop a plan to bring to market the technologies and products it developed.
Alfred in brief
- Total Budget: EUR 4 443 408 (EU contribution: EUR 3 423 572)
- Countries involved: Germany (coordinator), France, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden.
Key figures in the European Union
- In 2017, 19.4% of the EU’s population was aged 65 or over.
- 45% of people aged 65-74 years in the EU used the internet at least once a week in 2016.
- The European Commission is investing EUR 1.5 billion in the period 2018-2020 as part of the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
Artifical intelligence (AI)
AI is one of the most promising technologies for economic growth and addressing societal challenges in the years ahead. The new wave of AI-based innovations will profoundly impact not only digital products and services, but also traditional industry and the non- ICT sector, and will help to improve people’s everyday lives.
In April 2018 the European Commission presented a series of measures to increase public and private investment in AI, to prepare for socio-economic changes, and ensure an appropriate ethical and legal framework. The new Digital Europe programme that the Commission is proposing for 2021-27, with an overall budget of EUR 9.2 billion, also includes EUR 2.45 billion of funding for AI.