Professor Louise Moody – Written evidence (INQ0068)
- Professor Louise Moody, is research lead for Health Design and Human Factors within the Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities, Coventry University. Louise is also co-project lead on the MATUROLIFE Horizon 2020-funded research project looking at new approaches to the design of assistive technologies for older adults. In addition Louise leads the Human Factors theme for Devices 4 Dignity which is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to act as a catalyst within the NHS for the development of new medical devices, healthcare technologies and technology-dependent interventions.
- Her research is focused on the development of products, interventions and services to benefit health and wellbeing, and in this submission is addressing some of the questions set out under the ‘Technology’ section of this inquiry (questions 5-8).
Technology for Healthy Living
- With an ageing population there is a growing need for technology that enables older adults to live independently for longer. The EU Horizon2020 funded MATUROLIFE project (http://maturolife.eu) is focused on developing solutions that embed smart textiles to support well-being and independence in older adults.
- Assistive technology (AT) can provide older adults with the security that will enable them to live independently at home for longer e.g. wearing alarms and tracking devices around the arm or neck to alert carers to falls or their location if they wander. However such technology is often unsightly, and undesirable stigmatising the user and resulting in high abandonment rates.
Putting design and creative practice at the heart of AT innovation
- The overall objective of the MATUROLIFE project is to put design and creative practice at the heart of the innovation journey, and use it to produce Assistive Technology prototypes that will enable independent living for older adults. Smart clothing, footwear and furniture based solutions are being developed. The aim is to ensure new technology is developed that is easier to use as well as being more desirable. Without consideration of user needs, desires and requirements, (for example with regards to aesthetics, fashion, comfort and fit) we are at risk of investing in technology that may be effective but fails to be adopted, purchased and used.
- Building on existing technological advances in materials which have produced a highly innovative selective metallisation process that utilises nanotechnology, electrochemistry and materials science to encapsulate fibres in textiles with metal and thereby provide conductivity and electronic connectivity, the project explores how better integration of electronics and sensors into fabrics and textiles will be possible. This will give designers the tools to produce AT for older people that is not only functional but is more desirable and appealing as well as being lighter and more comfortable.
Creating a new economy
- The prototypes will demonstrate proof of concept and the industrial scalability of the selective metallisation process will be validated. Thus, the project will end at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 7.
- The Assistive Technology produced as a result of the project will benefit SMEs in the creative sector who expect to see sustainable growth as a result of the increase in this market.
Putting the user at the centre of the design process
- User-centred design (UCD) is a development approach in which end-users influence and are involved in design; it is both a philosophy and variety of methods, as outlined in the paper ‘User-centered health design: reflections on D4D’s experiences and challenges’. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3109/03091902.2015.1088086
- Whilst the approach has been criticized for the cost and time required to apply it effectively, the benefits are clear, such as improved functionality, quality, usability and acceptability of resulting designs and, therefore, a reduction in product failure. Within a healthcare context, designs that are usable and accepted by the intended user group increase the likelihood of appropriate product usage encouraging healthy behaviours and outcomes.
- Through a combination of active involvement of older adults in the user-centred development process and technological innovation, the MATUROLIFE project will develop a range of assistive technology products including clothing, footwear, and furniture that meet the needs of the user.
- Whilst there is growing work in the area of smart assistive technology, there is limited research that embeds the needs, requirements and expectations of older adults into the development of solutions which the studies that will form part of the MATUROLIFE project will seek to address.
- Use of co-creation enables discussion around priorities for assistive technologies, concerns about health and independence and exploration of fashion and functionality, as described in ‘Smart – not only intelligent!’ Co-creating priorities and design direction for ‘smart’ footwear to support independent ageing’
- The active involvement of users is critical to developing solutions that are wearable and acceptable, rather than being driven predominantly by technological capability.
Every day devices can be ‘smart’
- Using this technology and development approach, the MATUROLIFE team are developing smart shoes to minimise falls; furniture that monitors vital signs and calls for help; and clothes that help regulate temperature
- Products should be designed not only for the early-adopters but developed in a way that reduces barriers and minimise stigma for the least willing to turn to assistive technologies.
20 September 2019