Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

RADIO — Result In Brief

Project ID: 643892
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.1.4.
Country: Greece
Domain: Health, Digital Economy

Discreet long-term healthcare monitoring in the home

EU project researchers with the RADIO initiative developed robotics to monitor the health of ageing people who live alone. A main priority is to unobtrusively merge into the smart home while effectively recording health status.
Discreet long-term healthcare monitoring in the home
The positive aspects of looking after Europe’s growing elderly population while remaining in their own home are indisputable. Paramount is that the health monitoring equipment be discreet so that it becomes an accepted part of the user’s daily life.

Researchers with the RADIO project developed and integrated the necessary robotics and home automation technologies to recognise activities of daily living (ADL), which indicate early on cognitive impairment, frailty and social exclusion. As Dr Vangelis Karkaletsis, project coordinator outlines, “Technology to detect deterioration of normal ADLs was incorporated into the RADIO home, a system based on existing reliable, safe, and low-cost robotics and home automation solutions.”

Reconciling medical requirements and robotic stealth

Different users have different medical requirements and attitudes towards what they consider acceptable and what they consider obtrusive. To cater for this, RADIO ‘Home’ was developed as a modular system. “As such, these modules can be deployed in different configurations and mixes without requiring extensive effort or specialised knowledge,” Dr Karkaletsis points out.

Design of the resulting system allows the integration of medical institutions and informal caregivers into the information management and sharing ecosystem. Prime features are scalability, security and privacy preservation. RADIO incorporated a balanced mix of heterogeneous technologies borrowed from Internet-of-Things and robotics environments such as Open MQTT middleware and Bluetooth Low Energy wireless network, and the ubiquitous open RobotOS (ROS) middleware.

Data privacy an all-important issue

RADIO prototyped the privacy-preserving sensor: a device that integrates a visual sensor with a field programmable gate array (FPGA) processing unit. This allows the raw images to be processed and converted into abstract information before reaching computer memory.

Dr Karkaletsis explains: “This device makes it impossible to maliciously obtain raw visual content, as this content is only available on the hardware interface between the visual sensor and the FPGA.” Even if the device is compromised via its network interface, the raw images are not accessible since they are not written in the device’s memory.

Informal caregivers can effectively exchange and present data within the ecosystem of multiple RADIO Homes, computer terminals at formal care institutions and family mobile devices used by families. “Methods and protocols developed for this data exchange and presentation are driven by utility for the purpose of providing care while remaining ethically appropriate and privacy-preserving,” points out Dr Karkaletsis.

A particularly innovative aspect of the RADIO ecosystem is the development and prototyping of the RASSP protocol, which aims at facilitating data-driven medical research over health data. RASSP enables researchers to test hypotheses by getting statistical quantities computed using health monitoring data collected by RADIO homes, without providing individual information.

Unexpected challenges for the RADIO team

When the Asus Xtion 3D camera went out of production during the project, the wisdom of using widely supported open-source ROS middleware became very obvious. The availability of ROS drivers minimised the effort needed to replace the obsolete model with the Orbbec Astra 3D camera.

Other far less technical but extremely important hiccups had to be overcome, ranging from thick carpets that challenged robot motors to apartments crammed with furniture that were difficult to navigate autonomously. Tackling these challenges in turn has boosted the system’s robustness.

Robotic healthcare of the future at home

To gauge customer level of acceptance of RADIO technology, the researchers distributed a structured questionnaire, both before and after a RADIO demonstration at the Pan European celebration of Researcher’s Night and other science fairs. More than 200 questionnaires confirmed our prior expectation that people came to the demonstration biased towards relating the use of monitoring cameras with security. However, post-demonstration, there was a significant shift in people’s opinion on allowing a system like RADIO.

Commercialisation of the system as a whole is financially unviable at the moment. “However, some of the RADIO system technologies have already been flagged for development by the project’s commercial partners including the enhanced battery system and the integration of visual sensors and processing unit,” concludes Dr Karkaletsis, who anticipates that appropriate robotic platforms will soon become off-the-shelf commodities.

Keywords

RADIO, robotics, sensor, privacy, RobotOS (ROS) middleware, RASSP, long-term healthcare
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