Michael Sukkar: Digital tech can help people stay in their smart homes for longer

It has taken some time in finally getting its official launch, but government has opened the doors to a new public-private research hub aimed at using new digital technologies to build products and services to help keep elderly people in their own homes for longer.

The Research Hub for Digital Enhanced Living being housed at Deakin University aims to address quality of life issues in helping older people and Australians with disabilities to remain in their own home or in residential care, but also to build valuable commercial products for a growing global market.

Planning for the hub was originally announced in 2017 and funded through the Australian Research Council’s Industrial Transformation Research Hubs scheme.

Government said the hub would develop new technologies that will improve the quality of life for Australians that need support to stay in their home, from young adults living with disability, people recovering from brain injury, through to older people in our communities.

Housing Michael Sukkar said the research hub would lead to improved safety monitoring, reduced rehabilitation times and slowing down cognitive decline.

“Our Government believes that Australians should be supported to stay in their homes,” Mr Sukkar said.

“We are investing in this research hub to help address the challenges of an ageing population through the development of new technologies.”

The hub would focus on ten key research themes that include both key technology research as well as translational research themes. It will work through public and private sector partners to build and adapt personalised technologies within smart homes and smart buildings, whether in-home or managed-care facilities.

Ultimately, the Hub would create an R&D ecosystem for ‘digital enhanced living’ products and services that would include a range of SMEs and large companies for device, software, integration and deployment of novel medical technologies.

Deakin University vice-chancellor Iain Martin said the new hub would use digital technology to help with ageing, disability and rehabilitation support, ultimately letting people maintain their independence and live at home for longer.

“We will be developing effective, affordable and safe in-home and in-residential care solutions, such as smartphone technology to support the mental health of elderly people and avatar learning tools to improve care for people with dementia,” Professor Martin said.

“Collaboration will be key to the work of the Digital Enhanced Living Hub as industry partners outline their challenges and research teams find solutions. Together we will translate these outcomes into commercial use,” he said.

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