The city council plans to use internet of things technology under a contract with Alcove to reduce the burden on its social services teams
Peterborough City Council is working on a programme to provide vulnerable people with smartwatches that can react with sensors to support living at home.
Richard Godfrey, assistant director of Digital Peterborough, told a session at the Socitm Annual Conference that the technology can be used to reduce the burden on the council’s social care service by enabling users to do more themselves or draw on the support of neighbours and family.
He was speaking days after the announcement of a contract between Peterborough and internet of things specialist Alcove to develop a “connected care ecosystem”. This is aimed at keeping people on the edge of social care safe in their homes and reducing the support they need from council staff.
Godfrey said the deal reflects the council’s desire to “move away from the traditional red cord or red button”.
It involves fitting a number of sensors around the home, on fixtures such as doors and taps, and on key fobs, and equipping people with smartwatches or tablets.
Design and triggers
He highlighted the potential of smartwatches, saying they are more comfortable than a red button around the user’s neck, and can be set to react to phone calls and provide prompts for action such as taking medication. They can also react with other sensors, such as those on a medicine cabinet to indicate the person had taken their medication, and on fixtures such as the taps and in the bathroom.
The devices have been designed with simplified functions to make them easier to use by people who are not digitally literate.
“It’s about trigger based working,” Godfrey said. “So you can say if Mr X isn’t out of bed by 10.00 it will send an alert to someone, and we don’t want that alert to go to the council but a neighbour. We want them to be the first port of call. If it’s not a neighbour, then a family member, and only if it gets past that do we want it to come into the council.”
He added: “It’s a very different way of doing things and changes social care. No longer would social workers come in on a Monday and say that every Monday they see ‘these 10 people’, but the system tells them these are the 10 people they need to see.”
Other technology options include tablets for users to make a video call to a doctor or family member, and radio frequency identification devices that can activate alerts.
The council is planning to run a 100 home demonstrator across Peterborough beginning this year, and wants to ramp up the service “very quickly”.
Godfrey said that Peterborough is also talking to the Prison Service about how it can use the technology with offenders who are released early and dealing with substance misuse. In a press statement from Alcove said that with the council it intends to use the demonstrator project as a Launchpad for further initiatives to provide cast saving.
“The Alcove technology fits perfectly with the council’s technology strategy and transformation programme,” Godfrey said in the statement.
“Assistive technology and the internet of things need to become prevalent across local authorities in helping to deliver much needed service change. With Alcove we believe we have found a solution that is ground breaking in the area of social care and look forward to integrating this solution within the other solutions the council is currently implementing.”