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Digital TV how does delivery of the internet on TV work who s

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					The potential of communication technology for reducing isolation in older

This briefing is a supplement to the report by Independent Age on Older people,
technology and community: the potential of technology to help older people renew or
develop social contacts and to actively engage in their communities.‟1 In the process of
developing this report, steering group members (with particular thanks to Kevin Johnston,
Cisco) and our own research identified an array of different examples and ideas on the
potential of modern communications technology. Discussions on these ideas made it clear
that many of the advances were new uses of existing technology, and would lead to
increased accessibility as it becomes mainstream. The emphasis of the main report is on
the potential outcomes of the technology to enhance older people‟s lives rather than the
technology itself.

Some of the relevant technology trends are:

      1. High-speed, always-on connection of data and people
         The high-speed, always-on connection of data, people, places, and things which
         opens up options in homes, community places, public spaces, and providers of
         service. It makes physical geography much less of a constraint.
      2. Increasingly rich and helpful ways to communicate and collaborate – for
         example video, and telephone over internet services.
      3. Simpler, more intuitive, easy-to-use devices, and ways to interface with
         this. It may be possible for people to be able to connect their own favoured
         device to activate others, for example using their touch screen mobile phone to
         interface with a library catalogue.
      4. The ability to ‘individualise’ devices (for example being able to change text
         size, voice activation etc).

Video is one of the most relevant areas of technology development for social inclusion as
it is enabling human contact, interaction, participation and engagement.

See the example below where live, interactive, recorded and broadcast video are used for
active engagement for older people in Almere, Netherlands, which have enabled older
people to join exercise classes and music classes from different areas in the town. Older
people accessing and using YouTube to communicate with younger people can be seen
from the phenomenon of Geriatric1927, a video blogger who has hundreds of thousands
of followers. It is increasingly possible to send video clips of friends and family via mobile
phones for example. The visual nature of video can capture and engage and can help to
get new (sceptical) people interested.2

An exciting example of innovative use of video is in the city of Almere in the
Netherlands - a project as part of the Cisco IBSG Ageing Well programme.
It is using video in three ways: live, recorded and broadcast video.
Live high-quality, single-button-press video links through TelePresence enable people in
one side of the city who don‟t have access to, say, a fitness class, to join one that is
happening elsewhere – thus giving an incentive to get out of the house and come
together in a community hall to be joining (virtually) a class that would have normally
been out of reach. Recorded video, with simple one-button, no-lead devices (Flip
cameras) let the music instructor send a clip of the rehearsal to students who were not
able to attend this week, thus helping them to still feel part of the group, and giving a
focus to their practice for the next lesson. Broadcast video of what‟s going on, through
neighbourhood TV, digital signs in the library etc, help create a “buzz” and interest,
which is good for the participants AND for attracting others (seeing is much more
powerful than just hearing). It is a public-private cooperation between the Municipality
of Almere and Cisco‟s not-for-profit innovation arm, the Internet Business Solution
Group and Almere Kennisstad (a foundation).
For more information see:

Telephone over Internet

One of the key motivators for accessing digital technology is to keep in contact with
relatives living at a distance. Telephone over the Internet services such as Skype are
increasingly popular with older people, and this technology is becoming cheaper, and
available through mobile phones.

Touch screen devices

The development of touch-screen technology, both on computers and on mobile phones
can be incredibly helpful, and reduces some of the physical problems of using keyboards,
cursors and mice. For example Intel‟s Virtual Tea Room is using a touch-screen pad to
help older people stay connected to friends and relatives.3 Some early feedback on the
use of the iPad has shown its potential usability for older people.4

Social networking sites to facilitate social support and social care

For example, friends and families use closed Facebook groups to coordinate care for an
older member of the family, and other services such as TYZE, an online service which
uses the potential of the internet to cross boundaries of informal and formal care.5

Digital TV: interactive TV, and Internet on TV

Given the digital TV switchover programme, this is an area with potential scope, as the TV
is a very familiar, relatively low cost medium. Several services have been developed for
accessing local information and interacting at a local community level. Truly interactive TV
(where a viewer can send messages from the TV to relatives, shop, or bank online for
example) requires two-way communication. Currently this is only available in cable and
satellite. A new generation of set-top boxes are likely to develop with Internet Protocol
Television which is a system where Digital TV is delivered using the Internet and
Broadband Internet access networks. IPTV is already used by BT Vision to offer customers
a wider choice of TV channels as well as options to view in real time or record for later
viewings. One local authority, Hull, has used IPTV to set up personalised and locally
relevant public services for vulnerable older people through their television, thanks to a
venture launched by Hull City Council and Stream, Hull‟s own on-demand, broadband
television service. 6 There are a range of technical and user issues facing internet over the
TV. Internet-enabled TVs are currently being developed and estimates have been made
that 3.8 million UK homes will have an internet enabled TV by the end of 2010.7

Smart card technology

Smart cards are currently being used to provide discounts and membership for older
people. They also have the potential to be used to transfer information about the user‟s
preferences on computers and other terminals, for example that they need the text in
larger font, or to use another language.

An example is the e+smartcard by Bracknell Forest Council – a wallet-sized plastic card
with an electronic chip able to store information. It can be used as a library card, leisure
card and bus pass, and offers discounts with businesses.8

Extending the use of assistive technology

Much attention is on the role that technology can have in facilitating the health and safety
of people to help them live independently, for example telemedicine, and Telecare. This is
not the focus of this project, but there are distinct opportunities to harness assistive
technology to increase social support and reduce isolation. For example, the Intel Virtual
Tea Room mentioned above, which is a social networking pilot aimed at encouraging
housebound or socially isolated people to engage in social activity, uses a touch screen
pad to help older people to remain connected with friends, family and other members of
the community.9 A further example is the „buddy‟, a radio which also allows the user to
send a message about how they feel by text, Twitter, or Facebook to a group of carers.10

  Independent Age 2010 Older people, technology and community: the potential of technology to
help older people renew or develop social contacts and to actively engage in their communities
Independent Age and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
  Kevin Johnston, Cisco Personal communication about a ASCCA and VCNET at the IFA 2010
Conference, Melbourne.
  See: http://www.e-health-
4 See example of 99-year-old on YouTube
using an IPAD to read and write poetry.
  The Young Foundation, 2010: Innovating better ways of living in later life: Context, Examples and
Opportunities: Carmel O‟Sullivan, Geoff Mulgan and Diogo Vasconcelos.
  Estimate from New Media Age, cited in
See also the Project Canvas – a joint venture between BBC, ITV BT, Five, Channel 4 and TalkTalk-
a set-top box enabling on demand content and internet websites.
  Example cited in Young foundation paper. http://www.e-health-
   Buddy is designed by Adil Abrar of Sidekick Studios and is being piloted with mental health
patients in South London.: cited by Geraldine Bedell on

    May 2010


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