Productive in old age - thanks to artificial intelligence
An international research project, funded by the EU with over four million euros, is developing digital technologies to help older workers at work and at home.
Augsburg/MH - To participate productively in working life at an advanced age and to spend one's leisure time with a high quality of life is the wish of many older people. How digital technologies and artificial intelligence can support this goal is being researched by an international research team, in which the chair of the computer scientist Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Björn Schuller works together with nine other partners from four countries.
For the digital assistive systems, the scientists rely on the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning, through which computer programs use real data to make autonomous and intelligent decisions. The assistance system developed within the project monitors the activities and characteristics of the employee, such as his or her emotional state. It uses smart watches, smart phones, cameras, environmental sensors and beacons - small radio receivers or transmitters - at the workplace. With the information from these devices, the assistance system is intended to support the individual in carrying out certain activities, improve their cognitive abilities such as attention, and provide recommendations for their health and well-being.
From the 26th to 29th November, the University of Augsburg’s Chair of Embedded Intelligence for Health Care and Wellbeing, led by Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Björn Schuller, was host to the first annual general meeting of sustAGE, a €4 million Horizon 2020 project funded by the European Union under the Research and Innovation Action program. sustAGE’s aim is to develop a state-of-the-art assistive system to improve the productivity and quality of life of older adult employees, both at work and at home.
Exploiting the Internet-of-Things and machine learning, the cross-platform system will monitor employees’ activity and characteristics, including their emotional state, using smartwatches, smartphones, cameras, beacons and environmental sensors in the workplace. Based on its observations, it will then guide individuals as they carry out specific tasks, help them improve their cognitive skills, such as attention, and provide recommendations to boost their health and wellbeing.
Pilot studies will begin at the Heraklion Port Authority (Greece) and Centro Ricerche of the car manufacturer Fiat in Melfi, Italy in the new year. In the first set of tests, the system will detect, for instance, when employees are in dangerous areas, such as under containers during ship unloading procedures, and advise them to move to safer spots. In the second set, the system will detect when employees have been performing a repetitive task for too long and recommend, for example, that they change activity or take a break. The system will also recommend social activities and smartphone-based serious games for the employees’ spare time.
As part of a consortium of 10 organisations in four countries, Augsburg researchers are working in close collaboration with occupational specialists, psychologists and end-users on the project, coordinated by Dr. Maria Pateraki of the Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas in Heraklion in Greece. AI developed in this project will be used to both identify the actions and emotions of the employees and make the most beneficial recommendations to individuals.
At the meeting, consortium researchers discussed their achievements in sustAGE’s first year, including the release of the latest version of a wristwatch app custom-designed for the project, results on the accuracy of technology developed to locate workers, and the performance of algorithms developed to estimate employees’ pose. Recommendations that the sustAGE system will provide to participants and the goals of such interventions were also discussed.
At the same time, a technical meeting also took place to finalise details for the release of the project’s first prototype, a basic version of the system, by the end of 2019. Over the next two years, this will be developed into a final product for use by employees in and outside of the workplace.
The Consortium also met sustAGE’s External Advisory Board (EAB), which comprises experts in the fields of computer vision, ergonomics, occupational health & safety, and transport and logistics. EAB members provided valuable inputs and feedback towards the successful, ground-breaking accomplishment of the project vision and goals.