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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, such as the Amazon Echo and Google Assistant into supported living services to enhance support and enable greater 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 adequate support infrastructure was in place. The premises of the research was focusing on readily available consumer technology, including smart speakers and smart home hardware to allow individuals to have more control over their environment, safety & security, communication & learning, in addition to the wide range of entertainment benefits of the devices.

The use of mainstream technology rather than expensive and often unfit for purpose, “bespoke” learning disability technology created a profound sense of inclusion for people supported by the charity and individuals were very keen to engage with the technology; using the devices on average 150 times a day.

The technology proved to be a highly positive support enhancement and helped individuals increase their confidence and work towards many of their aspirational goals, such as achieving unsupported time at home.

Innovate Trust hopes with additional support and infrastructure, in the next couple of years the sector could start to proactively engage with the technology to use resources more effectively and help all individuals with learning disabilities reach their highest potential in terms of independence gained.

Alongside the research project supported by Innovate to Save, the charity has been developing and exploring additional uses of mainstream technology for individuals with learning disabilities and have started to develop solutions using motion controlled devices, touch technology, EEG brainwave hardware and eye tracking technologies.

Innovate Trust is engaging with new research partners in the HuFEx (Human Factors of Excellence) 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 but also 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, e.g., Amazon Echo and Google Home) offer an unprecedented opportunity to enhance agency and wellbeing among vulnerable groups across health and social care. However, unintended consequences and barriers to use are possible.

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Project partners

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