音声ブラウザご使用の方向け: SKIP NAVI GOTO NAVI

Web Posted on: August 24, 1998


- An ICT and computer-based demonstration home for disabled people


Gerhard Elger and Barbro Furugren

The Swedish Handicap Institute
P.O. Box 510, SE-162 15 Vällingby, Sweden
Tel: +46 8 620 17 00, Fax: +46 8 739 21 52
email: gerhard.elger@hi.se



1. Summary

In a suburban apartment near Stockholm, the Swedish Handicap Institute is running a three-year project showing how information and communication technology (ICT) and computer based solutions might help disabled and elderly people achieve a richer and more independent lifestyle.

| Top |

2. Introduction

The Swedish Handicap Institute has, among other tasks, an obligation to monitor and take advantage of new technology for the benefit of people with disabilities. Through a number of pilot projects involving "smart houses" and computer-based solutions, we have acquired experience and knowledge of how new technology can be made accessible for disabled people. Our experience from these pilots has created a solid platform for the SmartBo (meaning "smart living") project. In a demonstration apartment, we want to show working solutions serving as an example, as a source of competence, and as an inspiration.

| Top |

3. Aim

The aim of the project is to build up knowledge and competence, investigating how ICT can be used to give disabled people a greater chance of an independent life with meaningful work and leisure time and developing opportunities for greater independence, for example how functions in the home could be automated or controlled by people with severe disabilities. We wish to show how ICT can facilitate working and learning at home, to create interest in ICT solutions for the benefit of disabled people, and to demonstrate needs for new technology, serving as a source of inspiration for users as well as for people working with assistive devices. Development of solutions and assistive devices will be stimulated in co-operation with manufacturers.

| Top |

4. Target groups

The home will be presented from three different points of view showing possibilities for mobility-impaired people, visually- and hearing-impaired people and people with cognitive disabilities (developmental disability, brain injury, dementia).

Our target groups for information include disabled people, professionals working with assistive devices, private companies, the labour market, universities and colleges, local authorities, those involved in training health service personnel or special needs teachers, politicians, and other decision-makers.

| Top |

5. Methods

Based on our knowledge of target groups, we created scenarios where fictional individuals with different impairments would live a rich and independent life in the apartment. Problems encountered in daily life were listed and we discussed how needs and ambitions could be fulfilled. During a seminar, scenarios were presented to disabled people and approved. Participants emphasized, however, that a home environment is not to be encumbered by ugly cables and boxes. Technical installations ought to be invisible or at least unobtrusive. You should still get the feeling of a home atmosphere.

| Top |

6. Implementation

SmartBo is a two-room ground-floor apartment in a five-storey building situated in a Stockholm suburb. This house together with seven others was built for a co-operative housing association for senior citizens. Consequently, entry is easy for disabled; there are no steps or stairs to climb. The entrance door can be opened by remote control.

Apartment area is 78 sq. m. including kitchen with dining area and a large bathroom. To improve visitor access, the wall between two small rooms has been removed. Outside the living room, there is a small private patio accessible through a door from the living room.

SmartBo is not fully adapted for any disability. The project focuses on ICT and assistive devices and solutions in that field. Many of them are of course based on computer technology and electronics. We want to show how disabled people can live an independent and rich life regardless of the type of disability. That means that many functions in an ordinary home must be possible to control and supervise for people with mild to severe disabilities. SmartBo is a home with facilities for relaxation and hobbies, for work and study.

Selecting installations to meet the needs of the users in our scenarios, we opted for standard equipment whenever available. Industry-standard products offer a better benefit/cost-ratio than equipment especially developed for disabled people. In that sense the installations in the apartment can be divided into two categories, one common to all users, one adapted for each group - even for each disabled individual.

The first category comprises basic systems enabling the user to supervise and control functions present in a home, e.g. windows, doors, locks, water outlets, electric power and cooker. The need to monitor and control such a large number of functions is most easily met by choosing a home bus system, particularly if you want to program more complex functions.

From experience, we know the EIB (European Installation Bus) to be very reliable. Practically all sensors giving input signals to the bus-system are ordinary standard components. Wall-mounted switches for lights etc. are EIB standard. A cable connects all sensors and all actors in the apartment. Sensors are input devices to the bus such as switches, motion detectors, magnetic switches, pressure sensitive switches, current sensing devices, water flow sensing devices etc. Actors are output devices, i.e. relays for switching power, door automation, or controlling lamp dimmers.

The following items are sensed by the bus:

  • All electric switches for switching lights and electrical outlets on and off
  • Entrance door and door from the living room to patio
  • Doorbell at the entrance door and telephone signal
  • Motion sensing device in the hall (used for automatic lighting of hall and bathroom)
  • Kitchen window and water tap
  • Cooker
  • Bed

These items are controlled via the bus

  • Practically all lighting
  • Most electrical power outlets
  • Motorized lock of entrance door and door opener
  • Motorized blinds and curtains and window opener

These are the basic functions supervised and controlled by the system. But supervision and control must be made accessible for people with disabilities. The user interface of standard equipment is often inadequate. Every disability and every individual need may require a specialized solution for accessibility. This is the real challenge in a project like SmartBo where we strive to optimize accessibility for people with a wide range of disabilities. Thus a wide variety of input and output solutions is required to meet the needs of the users. 

Devices for the presentation of information to the user are the computer monitor plus recorded speech announcements. In addition, there are visual and tactile signalling devices, a text enlargement program, a speech synthesizer and a Braille display for visually impaired, blind or deaf-blind people. Input devices are different types of keyboards, alternative keyboards with overlays for pictograms etc., environmental control units (ECU) with infrared (IR) signalling, speech recognition devices, and standard and special switches.

There are three ways to control the system. Firstly via the computer (connected to the bus system with a serial interface), secondly via ECUs and the IR receivers distributed over the apartment, finally via the standard EIB wall-mounted four-function switches.

The graphical user interface of a specially produced SmartBo computer program displays a bird's eye view of the whole apartment. Click to enter a room, or use the initial letter of the room' s name (b for bedroom etc.), and see what objects are controllable and what their status is. For example you can see if a lamp is lit or not, or if a window is open or closed. You can switch the lamp on or off by clicking the mouse, pressing a letter on the keyboard, or touching the appropriate pictogram on the alternative keyboard. Open or close the kitchen window in the same way. For every controllable object, there is a range of alert levels to choose from.

For objects where a status change is important to ascertain, panels are shown on the computer monitor, sometimes with a voice announcement, when there is an alert: the doorbell or telephone is ringing, water flow from a tap has gone on longer than desired, the cooker is overheated, the fire alarm is activated. For deaf-blind people, certain alerts may be transmitted to a small vibrating device worn on a belt or in a pocket. There are four different patterns of vibration depending on the type of alert, e.g., doorbell, TDD or Braille-phone, fire alarm.

Beside the bed and the entrance door are small boxes with a button, a red and a green lamp and two holes underneath. We call them goodnight and goodbye boxes. Pressing the button when leaving the apartment or at night when going to bed, you get either an

"Everything OK" message or you are told what you have forgotten to do: closing the door to the patio or the window to the kitchen, turning the cooker or the water tap off etc. Messages are oral, visual (by a red or a green lamp on the box) or tactile (by rods protruding from the underside of the box). In that way, information can be received regardless of disability. Deaf-blind people feel the rods; if they don't remember the cause of the alert they can read it on the Braille display.

Some complex functions of the system contribute to the safety of older people. When you leave your bed at night, dimmed lamps light the way from bedroom to bathroom. If you don't return to your bed after a pre-set time, helpers could be alerted.

Extending the computer, there is a colour printer, a scanner (so that blind and deaf-blind people can scan text for display as Braille) and a CD-ROM-changer (so that severely motor-impaired, blind and deaf-blind people can access encyclopaedias, dictionaries, literature etc.), a modem and Internet access software.

Assistive devices and software in a second computer will serve people with mental retardation, brain damage or dementia. The goal is to give them control over their living in an apartment, support their activities by giving them planning capacity and reminders from the computer and help them to communicate whether they can speak or not. A video telephone for signing people (maybe also for mentally retarded people) will be installed to help them communicate. There will be a video door-phone for motor-impaired people and a special door-phone for deaf-blind people. Users want to know who is ringing their doorbell and if it is someone they really want to open their door for.

| Top |

7. Information

In accordance with the nature of the project, information is of vital importance. Study groups are frequently received in the apartment, both national and international groups. The project is presented at conferences where professionals and people with disabilities meet, discuss and get acquainted with new technology. A video describing the first stage of the implementation of the project is available with English or Swedish text. The project is presented in a brochure and on our web site http://www.hi.se/fou/smartbo. Seminars on different themes will be arranged, for instance on dementia and deaf-blindness. Reactions and viewpoints from visitors are gathered live and by a questionnaire.

| Top |

8. Funding

The project is financed by the Swedish Inheritance Fund and the Swedish Handicap Institute. In addition, the project has attracted support and sponsorship from private companies.

| Top |

9. Discussion and conclusions

While ICT and electronics offer greater opportunities to live a better and more independent life for disabled and elderly people, systems could be employed to control and supervise people in an unethical way. The integrity of the individual must always be protected. Ethical aspects are of paramount importance when future living conditions are to be discussed. Costs for installing and adapting an apartment with new technology might be saved by reduced expenditure for assistant staff. It can be a very positive experience to be able to cope with doing things on your own without having an assistant always at your side. Nevertheless, this is no excuse to deprive disabled people of personal assistance. Money is saved when elderly people can continue to live in a safe way in their own homes instead of moving into institutions. Probably many people would prefer to stay in their homes if this is an alternative. This, however, should always be a matter for individual choice. In the optimal case, thanks to the use of modern technology an individual will enjoy a full and independent life in spite of severe disabilities; at the same time costs to society may be reduced. Two good things go together.

| Top | | TIDE 98 Papers |