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UA leads two European projects to analyse legal and ethical boundaries of technology use in elderly care

The projects will develop video- and audio-based services with increased user acceptance in hospital, home and community settings



 Elders. By: Quinn Dombrowski (Flickr) 


Alicante. Tuesday 20 October 2020  Francisco_Florez

Francisco Flórez (in the picture), a researcher at the University of Alicante’s Department of IT and Computing, leads visuAAL and GoodBrother, two European projects seeking to analyse the ethical and legal boundaries of technology use in elderly care and develop video- and audio-based services with increased user acceptance.

Europe faces crucial health and social challenges, primarily due to the demographic shift towards an ageing population and to the economic impact of increased provision of healthcare and care services.

The UA researcher points out that “active and healthy ageing technologies have great potential to help address these social and healthcare demands while benefitting from the opportunities provided. Advances in computer vision and audio processing make it possible to design smart spaces that can observe and listen to the environment and those within it, and therefore offer advanced services such as fall prevention and detection, rehabilitation, assistance to those suffering from dementia, support for the elderly and their carers in their everyday lives, etc.”

However, continuous monitoring using cameras and microphones can be seen as too intrusive or as violating privacy rights, as there is concern that raw video or audio files could be viewed or listened to by unauthorised users or stored for inappropriate use. “This leads to their low user acceptance because they create a sense of Big Brother-like constant surveillance, like in George Orwell’s 1984,” Flórez adds. 

In this framework, both University of Alicante-led projects – visuAAL and GoodBrother – intend to analyse ethical, legal, privacy and societal issues in connection with the use of cameras and microphones to offer services in hospital, home and community settings, in a manner that protects and reassures users. Video- and audio-based systems with increased user acceptance will also be developed. According to Francisco Flórez, “the aim is for the scientific and technological innovations resulting from these projects to have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of elders, their families and care organisations, thus allowing elders to live independent lives and enjoy active and healthy ageing."



visuAAL (Privacy-Aware and Acceptable Video-Based Technologies and Services for Active and Assisted Living) ultimately seeks to provide 15 researchers with transdisciplinary education for them to pursue a PhD at the following universities: Alicante; RWTH Aachen, Germany; Stockholm, Sweden; Trinity College Dublin, Ireland; and TU Wien, Austria. The institutions taking part cover various areas of knowledge, including engineering, law, health and social sciences. 14 additional institutions from Austria, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom will cooperate in the training received and research conducted by these 15 PhD candidates.

This four-year project (2020-2024), budgeted at €3,973,703.40, is part of the H2020 programme through a Marie Sklodowska-Curie action (MSCA) within an Innovative Training Network (ITN).



GoodBrother (International Network on Privacy-Aware Audio- and Video-Based Applications for Active and Assisted Living) primarily seeks to promote collaboration among experts from different disciplines and countries to offset the sense of continuous surveillance by a system based on microphones and cameras in elderly care.

Also running for four years, until 2024, this project coordinated by the UA comprises 100 researchers from 37 European countries, Canada, the United States, Brazil and Japan, and other stakeholders, such as final users, care providers, NGOs, policy makers or public services, to foster partnerships that lead to new research and innovations.

GoodBrother is funded with approximately €600,000 through the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) programme, one of the most extensive intergovernmental networks in Europe to coordinate scientific and technical research across the continent.

This marks the first time the University of Alicante has coordinated a Marie Sklodowska-Curie action (MSCA) within an Innovative Training Network (ITN) and led a COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) action.





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