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Can smart tech create smart homes for older people?

The phrase ‘smart homes’ may bring to mind images from science fiction, and thoughts of robots vacuuming and cooking for their human masters, but the reality is far simpler and within reach – and it could save the NHS and social care services millions of pounds per year.

Smart home technology is, in fact, already being used (the Amazon Echo, for example) and will only keep on growing in popularity. But its use and the types of technologies need to be assessed and accelerated in order to address a crucial and often-overlooked issue: care for the elderly.

A report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, ‘Healthy Homes: Accommodating an Ageing Population’, explores how home technology can benefit older people and allow them to stay healthy and independent, remaining in their homes for longer and therefore taking pressure off care services.

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3D audio maps out the world in new app for visually impaired users

Soundscapes and audio landmarks are two of the features in an innovative new navigation app designed for users with sight loss.

Designed by Microsoft, the Soundscape app maps out locations using 3D audio to help users build a picture of their surroundings, allowing them to locate specific places, such as restaurants, shops and specific addresses.

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Apps combine forces to give visually impaired passengers a smoother ride.

Popular global transportation app Moovit has partnered with Be My Eyes, an app service providing sighted assistance to visually impaired people, aiming to make transit easier for users with sight loss.

Moovit, which is used by over 120 million people in 80 countries and claims to be ‘the world’s number one transit app’, helps people move around cities by providing users with transport information, such as bus and train trackers and real-time updates. Be My Eyes connects visually impaired users with sighted volunteers to answer queries through a video call– for example, checking the sell-by date on food packaging. The service is used by over 60,000 people with sight loss and has over 876,000 sighted volunteers.

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Artificial intelligence and accessibility at TechShare Pro 2017: the voice of things to come

Artificial intelligence (AI) was high on the agenda at the recent TechShare Pro 2017 conference in London. Hosted by AbilityNet and RNIB, the event explored a wide range of topics and ideas around digital accessibility and accessible technology, with a range of speakers discussing key ideas and developments.

One of the most popular themes of the event was AI and its potential benefits for accessibility. AI technologies have evolved at a tremendous pace over recent years and are now being used in everything from stock market trading to email management – but how can these technologies be utilised to help people with disabilities and impairments?

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How to buy a hamburger without losing your self-esteem: bluetooth beacon technology in Toronto

By Mel Poluck.

When the CNIB (formerly the Canadian National Institute for the Blind) opened its community hub last summer in Yonge St., Toronto, it set its ambitions high.

“We moved in, sat down and thought ‘how can we make this neighbourhood the most accessible in Canada?’” says CNIB’s Kat Clarke, Specialist Lead (Toronto), Advocacy and Government Relations (Ontario).

“The closest intersection to us wasn’t accessible, so we advocated to the [local council] to make it more accessible, which they’ve done,” says Clarke.

Now, a CNIB pilot aims to take local accessibility a step further using simple technology. ‘ShopTalk: BlindSquare Enabled’, allows blind and visually impaired people to find their way around the interiors of shops, cafés and other businesses in the neighbourhood via an app on their phone.

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Housing help tips, podcasts and lifelines for people with sight loss, collected online

A new online housing guide for people with sight loss has been launched, collecting together existing resources, advice and podcasts to help people in a range of situations.

The free guide has been created by sight loss charity Thomas Pocklington Trust, as a comprehensive portal for visually impaired people who are looking for a new home or experiencing housing issues.

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Evolving technologies won’t automatically empower people, says Paralympian

Advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence have huge potential to empower assistive technology users, but we cannot simply wait for this to happen, a renowned Paralympian and member of the House of Lords has said.

In an opening speech at the Assistive Technology Exhibition and Conference (ATEC) in London earlier this month, Lord Chris Holmes told delegates that these technologies must be harnessed in the right way.

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Research uncovers ‘the real digital divide’ facing millions in the UK

Fresh data has shown further evidence of the digital gulf in the UK facing millions of people with disabilities and older people.

A report by digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation and Professor Simeon Yates, titled ‘The real digital divide?’, examines the demographics of people in the UK who never or rarely use the internet. The report is based on (and builds on) a 2015 report from telecommunications regulatory body Ofcom on ‘Adults’ media use and attitudes’

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New accessible ATM app points users in the right direction

A new app that helps blind and visually impaired users track down accessible ATMs has been launched.

The free LINK ATM Locator lets users search for cash machines that have a range of usability features, including: audio assistance; wheelchair access; free-to-use ATMs; £5 note dispensing; mobile phone top-up facilities; and PIN number management.

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‘Smart cities’ are not inclusive – but they can be, new research claims

‘Smart cities’ are not serving the needs of people with disabilities and older people, and risk deepening an existing digital divide, according to new, in-depth research.

Smart cities are loosely defined as cities that integrate digital technologies into their infrastructure to transform and improve the lives of citizens and landscapes.

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