Delivering online assistance to the needy

April 07, 2006

Video telephony allows immediate contact with people at home, enables them to continue living at home and relieves pressure on care-providers by reducing physical journeys. It was first tested in Europe in the early 1990s using analogue cable. Though costly and bulky, these pioneering systems were shown to be helpful for elderly people who also liked using them.

Under the project IST@HOME, researchers developed an affordable and usable video-telephony system that built on work done in a series of European Union-funded projects to design home and care-provision systems for elderly people. It comprises a small movable camera, a set-top box for a TV and a handheld service pad. Together, these components enable users to see, talk to or seek assistance from professional carers in real time, over the Internet.

"Our focus was on visual communications and user acceptance," says Simon Robinson, the project's coordinator. "We wanted to go beyond the state-of-the-art for systems in the home environment. Our goal was to allow users to communicate from any room in the house and to talk to service staff via a TV set rather than a desktop PC."

The project partners, funded under the European Commission's IST programme, installed the complete system in some 600 homes in Germany, Belgium, Spain and Portugal and tested it for six months. They also produced portable video-communications devices which can be carried from room to room. The size of an A4 sheet of paper, these devices are standard tablet PCs with a video camera.

Older users and service staff expressed great appreciation for the project's services and systems, with most of both groups saying they would like to use them in future if possible. Both groups also rated the video quality acceptable to very acceptable at the data rate used, which was typically 256 kbits/second.

However, service staff identified some problems. These included alarm integration, eye-to-eye contact, lack of synchronicity between lip movement and speech, as well as audio quality and technical interruptions. "What is important for two-way communications is frames per second - ideally 24 when there is movement, the screen resolution of each picture, and speed to code," says Robinson.

The partners also discovered that today's wireless networks are less than ideal for larger homes. "WiFi is inadequate for video telephony," he adds, "because it needs stable, high-bandwidth connections. Quality-of-service guarantees must be added to ensure video signals are acceptable."

Yet dedicated equipment was not the goal, notes the coordinator. For example, the centre providing services was reengineered using open Java technology plus real-time video encoding hardware. "We also developed pure software-based codecs which are almost as good as the hardware. So future systems could be based on standard devices."

By the project's end, the partners concluded that home video-telephony systems of this kind are feasible, but that they require better integration - for example with alarm systems or with mobile devices that register vital signs such as blood pressure.

The IST@HOME systems are on show in Portugal Telecom's exhibition centre and have been demonstrated by Johanneswerk, a service provider under the German social welfare organisation of the Protestant church, and hospital/care providers.
-end-
Contact:
Simon Robinson
Empirica
Bonn
Germany
Tel: +49-228-9853043
Email: simon.robinson@empirica.com

Source: Based on information from IST@HOME, SeniorWatch 2002 & Flash Eurobarometer 135

IST Results

Related Wireless Networks Articles from Brightsurf:

5G wireless may lead to inaccurate weather forecasts
Upcoming 5G wireless networks that will provide faster cell phone service may lead to inaccurate weather forecasts, according to a Rutgers study on a controversial issue that has created anxiety among meteorologists.

Terahertz receiver for 6G wireless communications
Future wireless networks of the 6th generation (6G) will consist of a multitude of small radio cells that need to be connected by broadband communication links.

'Very low' risk of unknown health hazards from exposure to 5G wireless networks
Experts weigh in on recent online reports that warn of frightening health consequences from new fifth generation (5G) wireless networks.

NIST formula may help 5G wireless networks efficiently share communications frequencies
Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a mathematical formula that, computer simulations suggest, could help 5G and other wireless networks select and share communications frequencies about 5,000 times more efficiently than trial-and-error methods.

Novel communications architecture for future ultra-high speed wireless networks
SEARCHLIGHT project radically rethinks wireless architectures for highly scalable ultra-dense millimeter-wave networks.

Multi-hop communication: Frog choruses inspire wireless sensor networks
A team including researchers from Osaka University looked to nature for inspiration in designing more effective wireless sensor networks.

A new tool developed at the UPNA assesses how interference impacts on wireless networks
At the NUP/UPNA a telecommunications engineer has developed a methodology to assess the impact of interference on wireless communications and find out the best location for devices that communicate with each other wirelessly.

Novel transmitter protects wireless devices from hackers
MIT researchers have developed a novel transmitter that frequency hops each individual 1 or 0 bit of a data packet, every microsecond, which is fast enough to thwart even the quickest hackers.

New algorithm keeps data fresh in wireless networks
Algorithm provides networks with the most current information available while avoiding data congestion.

Want to make your factory wireless? NIST can guide you!
Knowing that it will take reliable wireless communications to make the smart factory of the not-so-distant future a reality, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published the first-ever set of science-based guidelines to help users select the best wireless system for any specific industrial environment, custom-design the setup to make it work, successfully deploy it, and then ensure that the network performs as needed.

Read More: Wireless Networks News and Wireless Networks Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.