Norfolk County Council is planning to step up the use of assistive technology in social care, with an emphasis on existing products likely to include devices using Amazon Alexa software.
It is reviewing the technologies available and a proposal has gone through its Digital Innovation and Efficiency Committee to approve the development of a demo suite or living lab and look at the options for partnership working.
The move is being made as part of its Norfolk Futures Promoting Independence programme, which is aimed at preventing problems for elderly and vulnerable people, helping them to stay independent for longer, and supporting people living with complex needs.
It is already providing devices – including telecare sensors and detectors, GPS location devices and home activity monitors – to around 2,000 people and is looking to increase this through its care packages.
Geoff Connell, Norfolk’s head of information management and technology, told UKAuthority: “What we’ve been doing more recently is using (Amazon) Echos, connected doorbells, sensors that tell if you have fallen, and trying a lot of these technologies and learning lessons.
“We’re now poised at a stage where it is about to go mainstream. We’re looking at how we can learn lessons from places like Hampshire, and target self-funders to keep them out of the system, and look at all of our care packages to ask if they are suitable for a combination of tech and people.
“We are aiming at is the consumer tech, stuff that will integrate easily and cheaply.”
Connell said the council is currently analysing what the various technologies can do and is likely to have the packages available towards the end of the year. He also pointed towards the work Hampshire County Council has done in testing the use of Amazon Alexa software to support people with disabilities and the potential to produce significant savings in the social care budget.
Norfolk has already distributed some Echo Dot devices among social care recipients and is testing them to see how they can be used to support people when linked to sensors and connected devices. The initial results are reported to be encouraging and an innovation day is planned, facilitated by Amazon, to look at the potential for the technologies in social care.
“We’re trying to see how much you can do out of the box before you have to try to develop specific skills,” Connell said, referring to the software programs that can be made available through Amazon’s Skills Store. “But we are up for developing skills.”