The week ahead – breathing life into telecare technology

News editor

Telecare and so-called ambient assisted living technologies are attracting a certain degree of attention, not least in The Engineer where we’ve reported widely on this growing trend to monitor people’s health in their home.

Technologies have been developed – and are under development – to assist people with obesity and depression, or to recognize the subtle signs of a stroke (to name a few) and relay anomalies back to health care professionals. The overall aim is to relieve the strain on health services and to let people maintain their autonomy at home.

A company called Simplalarm will discuss such a technology today at Discovering Start-Ups 2013, which is taking place at the London offices of law firm Taylor Wessing.

Simplalarm will be joined by 17 other wireless entrepreneurs and start-ups who will pitch their new technologies and business plans to a judging panel made up of representatives from companies that include BT, Google, Orange Labs, and Qualcomm Ventures.

For their part, Simplalarm will talk about their eponymous product that has been designed to be an effective and affordable method of providing family telecare.

The system is claimed to ‘unobtrusively monitor a range of normal daily activities within the home such as movement, door opening, visitor arrival, water use and electricity use.

‘The detected activity is communicated to a web-server, which family, friends and carers can view. Alerts are raised if abnormality in activity is detected. The device is wireless and tamper-proof, so ideal for installation in the home of someone who has dementia.’

Another eye-catching technology on display will be the ScaNurse, a device aimed at the consumer market for self diagnosis, providing a level of confidence about the need to seek professional advice from the user’s clinician.

Its developers say the device, an entry for the US X Prize Qualcomm Tricorder competition, will ‘utilise existing and new technologies and employ sensors in novel applications that breaks the mould of traditional diagnostic technologies.’

It is, of course, unfair to single out two from 18 of the start ups so take a look at the remainder on Cambridge Wireless’ website here. The event itself is jointly organised by Cambridge Wireless and Silicon SouthWest and supported by TechCity UK.

The Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) is in for a busy autumn with a series of events aimed squarely at raising the profile of the sector.

The first of these kicks off today at the government’s department of business, innovation and skills (BIS) and here are some stats to put some wind in their sails:

  • Manufacturing accounts for 2.6m jobs in the UK
  • SMEs employ 1.1m people
  • 95 per cent of all companies involved in manufacturing are SMEs
  • £140bn is generated by manufacturers every year, a figure that is growing.

MAS has been invited by BIS to stage a two-week exhibition at its Victoria Street HQ to demonstrate the impact of SME talent on industry to businesses and international visitors in London this week.

It says its ‘decided to use this opportunity to provide a platform for seven companies to showcase their innovation and products.’

There will also be the opportunity to see firsthand the three-wheeled electric ‘Raptor’ from Leicester-based Ecospin and a Flying Fish light hovercraft from Sandwich, Kent-based Flying Fish Hovercraft.

In a statement, Lorraine Holmes, area director of MAS, said: ‘Rather than put a few corporate stands up, we decided to tell our story through seven world class companies, who we have helped in various ways to achieve groundbreaking new technologies and products that are changing the way the world operates.”

‘There are hundreds of visitors that pass through 1 Victoria Street in London every day so you never know what new opportunities the participating companies might enjoy.”

MAS says it has created a special presentation for the showcase event, which runs between the 23rd September and the 4th October.

It will provide an insight into the type of support it delivers and its impact on manufacturing SMEs, with £620m of GVA set to be added to the economy and nearly 27,000 jobs forecast to be created or safeguarded as a direct result of assistance.

MAS is doing its best to bolster manufacturing and David Willetts MP today reiterated the government’s commitment to science with £400m in new funding and a focus on encouraging more women into STEM subjects

Speaking today at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, the minister for universities and science said, ‘We must invest long term and get the next generation doing science and engineering. That means girls as well as boys.

‘We are not going to win in the global race if we waste the talents of half the British people. The proportion of engineers who are women is one of the lowest in Europe and we’ve got to raise our game. That is why we support the ambition to double the proportion of engineering degrees taken by women.’

To help achieve this Willetts said fee loans will be extended to part time students of engineering, technology, and computer science who already have a degree in a different discipline. The government will also invest £200m in new teaching facilities for science and engineering in universities, which will be matched by universities who will have to match it with private money.

Welcoming today’s announcement, Nigel Fine, chief executive of the Institution of Engineering and Technology said: ‘Our 2013 Skills Survey found that over a third of employers are not taking any action to attract women into engineering whilst the average age of the engineering workforce continues to increase, with 56 per cent over the age of 40.

‘We still need to do more to attract young people in to the profession as they make a vital contribution to energy, transport, IT and so many other parts of the national infrastructure that everyone takes for granted. I hope today’s announcement will add further impetus to attract the future generation of engineers.’

Tim Thomas, head of employment policy at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, added: ‘The announcement by David Willetts of £200m of extra capital funding for universities teaching core STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths – is good news. The UK’s growing manufacturers are already finding the supply of engineers a block on expansion, with too few graduates, particularly women,  entering the sector.’