Hampshire plans Alexa trials for social care

County council aims to use Amazon’s artificial intelligence software to support older people in their homes

Hampshire County Council has announced plans to pilot Amazon’ Alexa voice recognition software and Echo home speakers in helping to care for older people in their homes.

Amazon EchoIt is working with its telehealthcare partner, the Argenti Telehealthcare Partnership led by PA Consulting, to set up a trial of a customised version of Echo for 50 social care clients to begin by the end of the year and run throughout 2018.

It will be supported by the development of relevant ‘skills’ for Alexa to deal with a number of relevant tasks. The council cited the examples of integrating that software with sensors to remind people to drink to stay hydrated when it knows they are moving around their homes, and enabling them to ask when they should take medication.

Managing needs

Councillor Liz Fairhurst, Hampshire'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 council added that it plans to develop a range of new skills linking Alexa over the year. It highlighted its capacity to provide news and weather forecasts, play an audiobook or switch on a digital radio.

Hampshire is the first council to declare an ambition to use Amazon Alexa in social care, although Aylesbury Vale District Council has indicated it plans to use the technology for a number of information and transaction requests. The Met Office and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency have also begun to use the software for basic services.

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