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Intelligent Context-Aware Systems for Healthcare, Wellness, and Assisted Living

Final Report Summary - ICARENET (Intelligent Context-Aware Systems for Healthcare, Wellness, and Assisted Living)

iCareNet ( pursues research on context-awareness with the aim to build robust and scalable systems for healthcare, wellness, and assisted living (HWA) applications. iCareNet targets a substantial breakthrough in the utilisation of context-aware systems through research and training activities covering the full spectrum of cross-domain technological challenges. Challenges are related to systems development and to converting technical prototypes into product concepts within HWA applications. Aligned to its principal scientific target, iCareNet addresses eight scientific and technological (S&T) objectives (SO) to profoundly advance research, and train researchers for the emerging relevance of context awareness. Objectives SO1 to SO6 correspond to core functional elements of context-aware systems that are embedded in body-worn and ambient systems, ranging from sensing & sensor technology, sensor pattern analysis & recognition, context inference & behaviour modelling, to pervasive service infrastructures and interaction with context-aware systems. Objectives SO7 and SO8 relate to inter-sectoral research that will influence design, implementation, and use of the systems at all layers, including privacy & security aspects of context-aware systems and human-centred design considerations. To address its principal scientific target, iCareNet foresees to integrate objectives SO7 and SO8 with strong interactions to SO1-SO6.

A new generation of healthcare solutions and assistive systems is targeted by iCareNet, which will fundamentally expand care options and effectiveness. The success of this new field essentially depends on trained experts, with strong scientific skills, broad knowledge in HWA applications, and experience in system integration. Thus, the iCareNet principal training target focuses on continuous multi-disciplinary education of fellows on context-aware technology for HWA applications. To attain this advanced cross-disciplinary expertise, iCareNet incorporates various HWA applications, a set of most vital research challenges, and a network team with strong research and educational background to train in total 19 fellows. The training program balances scientific objectives of iCareNet with acquisition of complementary skills that are required for successful academic and industrial careers, thus maximising benefits for iCareNet research fellows.

A multi-disciplinary approach, involving various domains besides the core technology development are being integrated to achieve the network's scientific objectives. A vigorous research program is being implemented with a selected set of key methodological elements, and a well-promoted collaboration between all network partners. The network itself is composed from academic and industrial (private) institutions that lead research in the area of context awareness. Moreover, clinical partners complement the network with their application- and study expertise.

Starting with the iCareNet Autumn School 2011, a series of seven joint school events for one week each and one 3-day international network conference have been organised by different beneficiaries until December 2014. In total, 102 lectures were given during these events and 35 external lecturers from outside of iCareNet. The external lecturers participated during totally 47 days across all events. iCareNet fellows provided very positive responses regarding the events and based on their feedback, in Period 2 (2013-2014) two additional joint events were held to supplement the original planning and maintain the frequency of two meetings per year during 2013 and 2014.

Besides lectures and workshops, the joint school events were used for thematic workgroup that were established and led by fellows themselves. Results from the first concluded workgroups include reports, demos, and joint publications. Doctoral Colloquia were organised during the Summer School 2012 and the Winter School 2013 to help fellows refine and focus their PhD research projects. Plans for research and training collaborations among beneficiaries and associate partners have been established, formally agreed through the Consortium Agreement, and conducted. Over 50 scientific papers related to iCareNet have been published or are in press at international conference and journals until December 2014, and a considerable number of further publications are under review to be published in 2015.

The consortium has worked and cooperated very efficiently including beneficiaries and associate partners. Throughout the four years, the iCareNet network has dynamically adjusted to encountered needs and partner competences by adding and removing associate partners. While the network faced challenges in recruiting sufficiently trained ESRs in the first years, finally a considerable number of 23 research fellows was included in the network for long-term (19 for one year or more).

** Impact **

Context recognition is a revolutionary, disruptive technology, intensively pursued in academic research, and an important factor in a broad range of industrial applications related to HWA. iCareNet targeted to educate 19 fellows in context awareness methods and technology relevant to HWA towards their next career step. The consortium succeeded in implementing this target: More than 19 fellows were finally involved and wrote a PCDP with concrete plans to realise a PhD or postdoctoral training programme.

Cross-disciplinary approach: The network was successful not only to recruit sufficient fellows and attain the projected objectives, but also to involve fellows across fields and sectors related to context awareness, thus realising a cross-disciplinary and cross-domain training and research programme. Eventually, fellows in iCareNet developed, e.g. novel micro-scale flexible sensors for motion analysis in clothing (L. Buethe, ETH), innovated in designing novel energy-adaptive sampling and Kalman filtering techniques (A. Derungs, TUE), developed highly accurate heart signal estimation techniques for circadian phase (E. Gil, PRE), devised advanced non-parametric context discovery schemes (J. Seiter, ETH), investigated privacy-oriented interruption methods for smartphones (J. Smith, ICL and F. Bolton, EP). Further innovative work examples include novel eye-based interaction with public displays (Y. Zhang, ULANC) and innovative hospital staff collaboration tools (S. Houben, ITU). Various awards were given to different fellows, thus confirming the innovative character of the fellow sub-projects and the fellows' success in implementing the foreseen sub-projects in the iCareNet network.

Training programme:

To support the interaction and training success, a number of innovative educational techniques and activities were introduced. For example, the concept of thematic focussed workgroups was introduced, resulting in over eleven different workgroups being implemented throughout the runtime of iCareNet. More than 80% of the workgroups were proposed by fellows themselves. Fellows of different background, including pattern recognition, human computer interaction, and security collaborated in workgroups. Over 50% of the workgroups published at least one joint, cross-institutional article.

Due to fellow interest, the number of joint school events was extended by two additional meetings. Across the different school events, all topics relevant to context aware systems and applications in HWA have been addressed. Fellows received training from renowned lecturers and practitioners in complementary skills addressing all of the targeted training objectives and additional topics, including among many others, research and study ethics, study design, innovation processes, startups, and fundraising for academic and business projects. Fellows were involved in the organisation of school events too. For example, the Winter School 2012 was entirely organised and managed by the iCareNet fellows, where each fellow took a role relevant to the meeting's success. The coordinator helped in the appointment of international speakers and financial administration of the event only.

School events were also used to visit close-by healthcare institutes and hospital training sites in order to learn about the internal processes and challenges in the healthcare and assisted living field. Moreover, industry participation in school events was substantial. For example, PRE organised the Winter School 2014 in Eindhoven and provided lectures at other school events too. FS and NIT provided lectures at school events too. In total, seven school events were held lasting for one full week each. Furthermore, a final network conference was organised.

Meanwhile, several fellows have already submitted their PhD thesis or are in the process of writing it. It is foreseen that ten ESR fellows will be able to defend their PhD thesis during 2015. For ESR fellows who have started later, i.e. during 2013 and 2014, a successful completion in 2016 or 2017 is very probable. Also the iCareNet ER was successful in obtaining a follow-up senior researcher position in a non-academic organisation.

Dissemination impact:

Overall, iCareNet was very successful in releasing scientific articles at conferences and in journals. More than 70 peer-reviewed papers were published since 2011 and several further papers are still in press or in review state, which will further increase the profound research and training achievement of the network.

iCareNet was presented through fellows and scientists-in-charge in about 10 to 15 conferences yearly, thus totalling to about 50 conference and meeting presences since 2011. Particular highlights of the iCareNet dissemination included the Recognise2Interact workshop organised by TUE and ITU, and held in conjunction with Ubicomp and ISWC 2013, which are among the largest and most important conferences in the area of context recognition and applications in HWA. Moreover, iCareNet was invited by the European Commission to provide a dedicated session at AAAS 2014 in Chicago. The session consisted of three talks from the academia (TUE), a successful fellow (PRE), and industry (FS), thus highlighting several facets of iCareNet to the attending audience and press. iCareNet was also invited to a TV interview during AAAS 2014 (TUE).
One central aim of iCareNet was to derive guidelines for the future implementation of context-aware systems in HWA applications. The most important result of iCareNet in this regard is the authoring of a joint book in the Springer State-Of-The-Art section, which is the most highly cited book format offered by Springer. While each book chapter is authored by a fellow as first author, a scientific advisory board and the editor ensured that the highest scientific quality standards were maintained. Each chapter covers a different topic along the scientific objectives of iCareNet and concludes with recommendations and guidelines that are relevant to practitioners and researchers in the field. The book is scheduled for release in May 2015.

Network collaboration: Collaborative activities, such as the publication and demo 'Touch-less Interaction with Medical Images Using Hand & Foot Gestures' (ITU, ICL, FS, ETH) impressively demonstrate the successful collaboration of several iCareNet partners in one common activity. The before mentioned activity resulted in a joint publication of the involved partners and workshop best paper award. Overall, iCareNet produced more than 20 cross-institutional publications between the iCareNet partners so far.

During the runtime of iCareNet, many new collaborations between the partner organisations were established covering all relevant sectors: clinical institutions, academia, and industry. For example, PRE collaborated with CHB in sleep studies, TUE started collaboration with RR in patient monitoring and rehabilitation progress estimation. Many other partners have started joint projects that yet await first public results. Where possible, industrial associate partners got involved in iCareNet, e.g. TMS gave lectures at two school events and got involved in fellow advisory. All industry partners were involved in the steering of iCareNet topics and had impact on the school event topics throughout the iCareNet funding period.

Benefits at the level of European research: With the substantial scientific achievements of iCareNet, the network has considerable influence on further European, but also worldwide research. A key to this success is that context-aware systems are at the core of future wearable and ubiquitous systems. More specifically, it can be expected that future system designs will critically depend on the achievements and directions demonstrated in iCareNet. In this regard, the numerous recommendations and guidelines on different areas, published in the joint iCareNet book will become a key reference for the future. It can be expected that the results presented in the scientific community will have a positive long-term effect on the competitiveness of European research. Moreover, the involved industry made substantial progress in their fields and will continue to exploit the research results obtained by iCareNet. The initial filings of several innovation disclosures that directly relate to iCareNet confirms this impact.

It is clear that the fellows participating in iCareNet will serve as multipliers for the progress in research and business in the coming time. Of the fellows who completed their PhD already, several continue their career in research and are likely to start their own research group soon. Others will quickly obtain key roles in industry, e.g. leading development teams. The latter will have the opportunity to translate top-notch research into successful business ideas.

Summary of impact-related key goals and achievements:

iCareNet proposed several impact-related goals. The following assessment of these goals shows that all objectives were reached or excelled beyond originally set goals:

1. Scientific publication in leading conferences of the field: more than 70 publications at key conferences, including CHI, PerCom, Ubicomp, ISWC, and journals, including Pervasive and Mobile Computing, and others.
2. Active participation in industry and application-oriented workshops: iCareNet was presented far more than 50 meetings, conferences, and workshops, including AAAS 2014 in Chicago.
3. Organisation of workshops and tutorials at relevant conferences. Among others, iCareNet organised the Recognise2Interact workshop at Ubicomp/ISWC 2013.
4. Well-structured up-to-date iCareNet website: presents up-to-date information on the networks progress, including names and experience of researchers, contact information, publication list, workshop summaries, and many more.
5. Publication of an electronic newsletter: an internal newsletter was distributed regularly to partners. In addition, posters and flyers with information and links were designed and is continuously distributed to industry and provided at conferences and meetings.
6. Participation of the partners in European and national bodies, dealing with the design of educational programs: iCareNet partners are involved in several bodies related to education and guidance of students, e.g. vice president of the Netherlands Academy of Technology and Innovation fostering technical education at schools and universities and knowledge transfer to companies (NIT); IEEE student chapter counsellor guiding student groups in university education and towards academic research (UP), etc.
7. Participation in strategic initiatives dealing with the design of future research programs on the European and national level: some iCareNet partners are involved, including PRE and DFKI.
8. Organisation of a final network conference: the iCareNet conference 2014 was held at VTT Tampere during Sep 30-Oct 2, 2014.
9. Development and formalisation of a detailed plan for continuation of research collaboration beyond the foreseen duration of iCareNet: A joint paper of several partners was written, presenting the design, objectives, and future directions of the iCareNet concept beyond the network's funding time (involved partners: TUE, UP, DFKI, ULANC).