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digital solutions project

Intelligent Personal Assistants

The Intelligent Personal Assistant (IPA) project uses voice assistants, sensors and mainstream technology to enhance, promote and increase independence for individuals with disabilities—enabling individuals to control elements of the home through Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices.


About the Project

The Nesta and Y Lab Innovate to Save Scheme provided Innovate Trust with the resource to research and develop its idea of integrating smart speakers. Technology such as the Amazon Echo and Google Assistant into supported living services to enhance support and enable more significant levels of independence for adults with a disability.

We expected that the technology would integrate well into supported living services as long as a person-centred approach was adopted and an adequate support plan was in place. The research focused on readily available consumer technology, including smart speakers and smart home hardware, allowing individuals to have more control over their environment, safety and security, communication and learning, and the devices’ wide range of entertainment benefits.

Using mainstream technology, as opposed to expensive and unfit-for-purpose, “bespoke” learning disability technology, created a deep sense of inclusion for the people we support. Individuals were especially keen to engage with the technology, using the devices on average 150 times a day.
The technology proved to be a positive support enhancement. It has supported individuals to increase their confidence and work towards many of their aspirational goals, such as achieving unsupported time at home.
We hope that with additional support and infrastructure, our sector could begin proactively engaging with the technology in the next couple of years to use resources more effectively. This will help all individuals with Learning Disabilities reach their highest potential in terms of independence gained.

Alongside the research project supported by Innovate to Save, we have been developing and exploring additional uses of mainstream technology for people with Learning Disabilities. We have started to create solutions using motion-controlled devices, touch technology, EEG brainwave hardware and eye-tracking technologies.

Innovate Trust is engaging with new research partners in the Human Factors of Excellence (HuFEx) research unit in the School of Psychology at Cardiff University and has undertaken additional research.

The project has received a wide range of interest, publicity and engagement with many partners in our sector. It has also gained interest from individuals and organisations from other sectors. The project has led to supporting the development of several Smart home projects across Wales.

Project Research

Mainstream intelligent personal assistants (IPAs) such as Amazon Echo and Google Home offer an outstanding opportunity to enhance agency and well-being among vulnerable groups across health and social care. However, unintended consequences and barriers to use are possible.

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