Smart Homes for the 21st Century

What the past three years have shown us is that isolation and digital exclusion has a huge impact of our lives. But there is hope on the horizon. The TAPPI report produced by the Housing LIN is one example of how the future might be made better by introducing systems that enable people as well as the tech to use them. There cannot be and should not be a one size fits all mentality. This has to be worked out for the individual.

At the time of writing I came into contact with two main organisations working with disabled people and councils in London.- A2i Dyslexia and Millenium Community Solutions(MCS). Both organisations promote the use of technology within their communities and beyond. MCS are producing an AT Toolkit which should be released next year. This will give vital information to those who need it and probably don’t know they need it. Research by AGE UK sites the need for confidence building approaches that will help people gain skills. Having been closely involved with that project called “Click and Connect” those who took part who were of senior age did show great confidence in being able to use the technology after our intervention. AGE UK and AbilityNet teamed up for that project.

So as we move down the road of more connectivity and more smart home use what about the reality of some of the present difficulties. For this I shout out two major companies Google and Amazon.. Google had a way that your Google Nest Mini could make phone calls using their great search engines but a couple of years ago they suddenly withdrew that in favour of Google Duo which sounds fine but you have lost that ability to search which is vital for a blind person. Then this November Amazon decided to withdraw their email service which further limits interaction. They also discontinued it seems their Amazon Connect device which gives hands-free access to making landline phone calls.

Please, why did you do this?

Whoever is in charge of accessibility in these organisations need to take a close look at their products and services in relation to the disabled.

So to conclude we are on a road map to a connected home and connected world that includes disabled people but we still have a long way to go in making it an accessible world for all.

1pmobile & changing your mobile phone provider

This morning I was helping a client to change over his mobile phone provider (1p mobile) which involves the following:-

  1. Creating a login with username and password and then validate it on your chosen email address
  2. Taking the account details provided by the new company and add more details to your profile
  3. Sending a request to keep the same telephone number. This is done via a PAC request code from your old user.
  4. Confirmation of request with a set day for transfer which usually involves a couple of hours downtime.
  5. On the day of transfer – SWITCH OFF YOUR PHONE – take out old sim and replace with new SIM card your provider has sent you.
  6. Switch the phone on again
  7. Phone gets activated. Your new network is shown and you are able to make calls and surf the internet

As regards how good 1p mobile is it depends on the following

  1. How good is the network coverage?
  2. Is the data cost too much (1p per MB)

I will be monitoring an answer with my client to those questions via this blog. Watch this space.

otter.ai live notes

I have been using Otter.ai for conferences , events and meetings and it’s proved to be a useful tool. Especially in the meeting where on Google Meet combined with captions it says who is speaking and gives the hearing impaired user who is speaking in real-time.

Is it 100% accurate? The answer is no, but it is getting close. I am sure in time we will have more accurate ai. At the moment it doesn’t replace the stenotypist. But if human help is not available this is a stand in for those with hearing impairment.

Otter live notes records the meeting and gives a transcript with audio. Unfortunately, not the google aspect of telling who is speaking in a group call. Nevertheless useful. It’s just whether it’s worth £21.00 a month($30) .

Whoop it up!

Just been reading an interesting article about “Whoop” which is a wearable device that measures and monitors your bodies vital signs. In our health and wellbeing focus we are more than ever conscious of our bodies. Amplified by the Coronovirus we welcome tools that monitor such things as elevated respiratory rate which could be an indication of Covid19. My gut reaction is to compare and authenticate with traditional methods.

Are wearables going to be good as doctors?

I suspect the answer at the moment would be no. Wearables at the moment can collect data, Doctors interpret the data. There is no doubt that it will aide doctors in their diagnosis and with a system that Wyvern Systems are developing could be a valuable tool in monitoring patients with a variety of medical conditions from asthma to heart conditions to diabetes. The implications are enormous as we move into more remote working. So alongside remote working we have remote medical monitoring. Just like driveless cars we have an ethical consideration to make. There is a feeling of unease and trustworthiness about the introduction of automatic systems. But as I use the docklands railway as an example. That has been running for years without a serious incident and I am sure we don’t think about it any longer. I predict we will have the same reaction to wearables for medical useage. It will just be another tool to add to our biological kit of aids we use such as Blood pressure and Oxygen kits both of which can be incorporated into a wearable.

Another trend is in self-diagnosis via Smart Speakers. Amazon in the states is looking into this and have devised an expert system that can help with diagnosis and suggest treatments. It can’t administer them but it could inform. The danger there is the problem we can identify with being the human trait of reading medical dictionaries or websites and thinking we have all the symptoms in the world!

For both types of devices – wearables and smart speakers – they are going to be of immense value to the disabled. Those suffering with MS, Parkinsons, Stroke where hand function has gone. Medical professionals can be alerted to any changes of state even before the patient knows! Calling for help is the biggest problem for those with these conditions. If systems can alert to potential dangers that takes the pressure of the patient. The problem often seen in care homes is – will anyone come? The infrastructure to make this work is significant and if the UK governments extra money for the NHS to cover backlog is anything to go by will it look at infrastructure of data protection, data access and integrated systems. There have been a few problems when this has been attempted in the past. Look at Track and Trace for instance!

As the UK and the western world’s population gets older we are going to need more automotive systems to cope. The old traditional ways can’t manage the demand and so we have to turn to technology to help us. I am not a medical practitioner just an Assistive Technologist who happens to have medical needs. I use wearables myself as I have shared on this blog in the past. At the moment the technology is evolving and as it does so the questions of accuracy of measurement will be a key issue alongside the ethical issue of do I trust the tech. Increasingly we shall see the demand rise and so too will be our capacity to change.

Get online week – 18th-24th october

AccessAbility Solutions supports Get online week which shows the benefits to users. An interesting article by Kelly Chan from AbilityNet explains the main facts about online life in the UK in 2021. Read on with interest:-

https://abilitynet.org.uk/news-blogs/facts-and-stats-about-digital-exclusion-get-online-week

New suits,new machines, new software & WORKPLACE CONFERENCE

Well, I am rather excited about travelling up to London today to attend the Nasen Awards 2021 dinner at the Waldorf Hotel. I went to this event a few years ago and now I get to take my wife and stay overnight. I am a judge for these awards and this year there was some really interesting and useful entries. Which shows that despite the pandemic there has been a lot of good and worthy use of technology to help special needs pupils. Ones I was impressed with was a local authority system to progress statements in a thorough yet fair way. In assistive technology terms there were some useful hardware and software. I can’t say too much until after the event so maybe watch out for a further article. So my new suit would be the first time ever wearing a dinner jacket.

New machines and new software would refer to the arrival of Windows 11. I looked to see if my machine of 2 years old was compatible and alas it is not. So if I want to use Windows 11 I have to purchase a brand new laptop. Do I hear notes of cynism? A not-so subtle plot to get people to buy more Microsoft machines. I am keen to try out the Accessibility Options on Windows 11 . We have discussed it in a previous post. And I have my colleagues sending me articles on the subject as well. Including an article on how to get around the TPM 2.0 problem. Now the irony is my 2 yr old Dell does have TPM 2.0 but failed it’s Ryzen processor which is a pity. I won’t be taking a risk upgrading this unapproved way. Best to wait and see how it fairs for a few months before committing to spending the cash on a new machine.

Finally, it has been a week of a conference which I have been helping to run. “The Disability Confident in Action – Unlocking potential and building inclusion,” attracted over 200 bookings of which over 70 came. Those who attended both days were treated to a veritable collection of brilliant speakers and fabulous assistive technology products. This BATA run event will publish the recordings in due course and you can then attend virtually as did the attendees again. If you want to make your workplace disability confident this showcase for good practise and provision would be the go-to setting to go to.

Now where did I put those train tickets?

iView health and wellbeing

A new product is being produced by Wyvern Business Systems. The concept is to have a smart watch that collects data about multiple items of information such as blood pressure, oxygen levels and sleep patterns. All useful information for medical professionals as well as the client themselves is provided 24/7 via the Smart Watch. More details are on this website – https://iviewhub.com/gold-signup. Use the contact us button for further details. This is new and about to be launched so it’s in the beta phase.

Useful for students on managing their lifestyle and monitoring their blood pressure. Also, other measurements would be useful for adults who want to monitor their exercise activity on Activities. Body Temperature useful for whether you have a temperature or a fever and therefore you are not well.

AAS will be looking into this further posts in the future. So watch this space!

Starr in the Community

It’s always good to give back to the community. Starr in the Community give opportunities for special school pupils to experience a surprise trip out to the circus. Circuses may not be your thing or you might not like clowns but some kids do so it’s a good thing to give some joy to one child to have this kind of event.