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Public-Private ‘Unwillingness to Co-operate’ Over Smart Homes

A coherent national plan is needed to develop integrated systems and services for ‘smart homes’ to meet the needs of disabled and elderly people, overcoming “entrenched behaviours, convention, ego and unwillingness to co-operate” across the public and private sectors, a London seminar heard this month.

Delegates at the ‘smart living’ seminar heard that although many pilot schemes were already testing components of next generation home systems, there was little co-ordination between the sectors involved including architecture, engineering, building, health and care, energy, communications, transport and bodies representing disabled and older people.

“Without such a plan, the situation in five years time is likely to be as fragmentary as it is today,” said Professor Patrick Roe of the European CARDIAC project (Coordination Action in R&D in Accessible and Assistive ICT: http://www.cardiac-eu.org ), which aims to create a ‘road-map’ to co-ordinate research in this field.

Martyn Gilbert of ‘UK3.0’, a private-sector-led project to create “next generation” homes, said the barriers to progress lay not with technology but with organisational cultures.

“All of the substantive technology necessary to help older and disabled people live as they wish in their own homes is here, and has been here for several years. The obstacles are entrenched behaviours in the public and private sectors. They are obstacles of convention, ego and unwillingness to co-operate in good will with other stakeholders.

“The nation can no longer afford the luxury of such behaviours… it makes societal, business and national sense to collaborate to bring about the widest installation of these technologies in people’s homes.”

UK 3.0 is attempting to co-ordinate private and public sector services to smart homes including intelligent energy and water management and health promotion, with a target of contributing £100 billion a year to the UK economy by 2019.

‘Smart Living – the way forward for disabled and older people’ was hosted by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in association with the accessible ICT charity PhoneAbility ( http://www.phoneability.org.uk ).

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