A telecare system that incorporates biometric data promises to improve the safety and security of vulnerable and elderly people living alone.
Working in collaboration with Kent University’s School of Engineering and Digital Arts (EDA), information specialist Inmezzo is developing methods to identify individuals through face and voice-pattern recognition.
In recent years there has been growing emphasis on the delivery of at-home telecare for people living alone. As this technology becomes more widespread and integrated into existing healthcare models, security and sensitivity of data will become paramount, explained EDA’s Prof Michael Fairhurst.
‘If you are delivering medical advice or perhaps taking measurements to assess the state of health in the home, where the environment is less controlled, you need to be pretty sure the person you think you’re exchanging information with is the right person,’ he said ’Biometrics allows you to do that in the most fundamental and reliable way.’
The project, which is supported by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), is exploring various ways to make it easier for clients to access telecare systems and also to authorise service providers and visitors using voice and face recognition.
Tim Craig from Inmezzo explained one way in which this might be implemented.
‘If you think of a user in a care home coming up to the computer to have a video session with their GP, first she’ll probably press a button that will take a picture and say “Hello Mo, please say your name,” and then she will choose who she wishes to speak to. They don’t have to remember a pin number, or to bring their smart card with them.’
‘From the service provider’s point of view, they can get onto a machine that’s got the service and be recognised as authorised to look after that person … you don’t just have to be a doctor, you have to a particular doctor who’s looking after that person.’
Craig revealed that Inmezzo is currently working with the spinal injuries unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital to develop a system for outpatients, so that there is a trusted network of service providers that people can call upon.
‘Everybody is asking for a large-scale telecare system, but you have to start being really serious about access management.’