Assistance system improves support services offered by social services

Dresden, /

To improve the flexibility of social services and institutions and better adapt them to the needs of the people they serve, the Fraunhofer-Institut für Photonische Mikrosysteme IPMS has developed a mobile assistance system that allows older people, including those in home care, to remain mobile and actively participate in public life.

The buttons shown on the display are programmed in advance on the server according to the personal wishes and needs of the user.

As people get older, they suffer not only from physical complaints but also from the increasing loss of cognitive functions, such as attention, perception, memory or orientation. These deficits greatly limit their mobility and thus their active participation in public and cultural life, and often also lead to a need for home care or other support services.­ These individuals often avoid activities that used to be a fixed part of their life mainly out of uncertainty and fear. To assist older people to maintain their mobility, Fraunhofer IPMS has developed a mobile assistance system that gives seniors a greater feeling of security in every-day situations and is designed to facilitate communication with their service providers.­

This system concept is based on the result of a joint research project* of which Fraunhofer IPMS was a member and which was financially supported by BMBF, the German Ministry for Education and Research. The project also included the development of a mobility assistant that forms a part of an integrated system and can therefore also be used in the social services segment. It would be enormously useful to services and institutions such as social organizations, Meals on Wheels, old age and nursing homes or Assisted Living. The original objective of the mobility assistant has been maintained, namely a high degree of personalized functionality and easy of use. Users should be able to choose between just a few but perfectly tailored basic functions. Appointment queries, medication reminders, support inquiries or navigational support from the doctor's office to the home can now be done easily and quickly. The assistance system provides direct feedback to support staff, allowing them to respond accordingly. The assistance system developed by Fraunhofer IPMS can make their work even more targeted, efficient and cost-effective. Seniors use the mobility assistant to signal a need for support services, allowing the social services unit to provide targeted and immediate support.

The complete system consists of a portable terminal that is based on a watch, and an associated server that is accessible to all authorized users through a web portal. It is operated with a display by touching the symbols. The buttons shown on the display are programmed in advance on the server according to the personal wishes and needs of the senior citizen. The system also allows for the configuration of individual profiles, the framework for which can be easily created and specified by the operator of the system for different application areas, and which means that each user only sees the functions that have been tailored specifically to him or her on the mobile device. Data is transferred by means of mobile phone signals.. The classic communication channels offered by phone, wireless communications and Internet are used to connect the server to emergency hot lines, service providers and trusted persons. This ensures that the system can be integrated in existing infrastructures without any hardware or software modifications.

Fraunhofer IPMS will present its work in the medical technology segment at MEDICA - the world's leading trade show for medicine in Düsseldorf - from November 12-15, 2014, in Hall 3 Stand E74.

* Participants in the joint research project that formed a part of the "Mobile into old age - wireless mobility chains to remove, bypass and overcome barriers" program, which was financially supported by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research, included Fraunhofer IPMS as well as MasterSolution AG, Binder-Elektronik GmbH, WILDDESIGN GmbH & Co. KG, Dresdner Druck- und Verlagshaus GmbH & Co. KG and Universität der Bundeswehr München. The project ended in October 2014.