Digital hubs

Three new research centres devoted to digital technologies will benefit sectors ranging from healthcare to transport, the government has claimed.

Located in Nottingham, Newcastle and Aberdeen, the centres will cost £36m and will focus on promoting digital technologies to people who have difficulty accessing them.

Targeted groups include the elderly, disabled and those living in rural communities. However, science minister Drayson said that the benefits would be wide-ranging. He added: ‘The hubs will develop new technologies utilising wireless networks and GPS, which will deliver high-tech digital solutions across many sectors. They will create jobs, improve public services such as health and transport, reduce waste and bring digital revolution into people’s lives for the first time.’

One of the projects to benefit from the funding includes work on GPS technology to bring independent mobility to dementia sufferers and the elderly. Research is already underway at Newcastle University and Phil Blythe, professor of intelligent transport systems, is hopeful of developing a commercial prototype in the next few years.

Blythe said: ‘We are currently using a combination of mobile and GPS for outdoor navigation and information services. However, the biggest problem we have is finding the interface and how to provide that information to people in a way that is usable for our target groups. We have got great mobile phones and PDAs now, but for elderly people it is finding a way to see the screen is actually quite difficult.’

He added: ‘We have been experimenting with things such as putting displays on the corner of glasses, so as you walk around you get travel information in the periphery of your vision. This is just one solution, but we are hoping the funding will help us develop more with the end user in mind.’

Ellie Zolfagharifard