Students generate ideas to support independent living for the elderly

7 March 2016

Students generate ideas to support independent living for the elderly

Ideas were flowing during a recent three-day Business Hackathon competition at Henley Business School. Supported by IBM, students were tasked with developing technology ideas to support elderly individuals to live more independently and engage in the Reading community. After a challenging few days, the Mayor of Reading, Councillor Sarah Hacker, announced the winning team as Rattanasuda Chamnankha, Xiaoyu Zhang, Anton Wisnu Prabowo and Xin Wang with their Smart TV technology for teleconferencing and connecting the elderly to others.

Ideas were flowing during a recent three-day Business Hackathon competition at Henley Business School. Supported by IBM, students were tasked with developing technology ideas to support elderly individuals to live more independently and engage in the Reading community. After a challenging few days, the Mayor of Reading, Councillor Sarah Hacker, announced the winning team as Rattanasuda Chamnankha, Xiaoyu Zhang, Anton Wisnu Prabowo and Xin Wang with their Smart TV technology for teleconferencing and connecting the elderly to others.

The UK has an ageing population, yet elderly individuals living at home and in care homes often become disconnected from their communities or lack sufficient support to live independently and lead an active social life. Students were invited to take part in the hackathon to come up with ideas to alleviate this situation, whilst keeping in mind the viability of the idea and how existing technologies could support its development.

Students presented their ideas to a panel of industry judges, Doug Clark from IBM, Peter O’Hara from OLM Systems Ltd, Peter Absolon from Readibus and Anthony Parker, Chair of BCS Berkshire Branch (The Chartered Institute for IT). Ideas included an app to connect the elderly with volunteers who will accompany them to the cinema, for walks etc. and another to encourage them to take up exercise opportunities at community centres and find other like-minded people. The runners up of the competition were Iman Taboada, Natthakul Pingclasai, Yulu Lei, Qingqing Pian and Xiuyu Ren, who suggested a social companion app which identifies user interests and connects them with others with similar interests.

Dr Keiichi Nakata, Programme Area Director for Postgraduate Taught Informatics at Henley Business School, comments:

"Our students have come up with outstanding solutions to the Business Hackathon task. Working on this project has given them the chance to investigate and understand how technology can be used to develop innovative services for the good of the wider society and the future of business. It has also provided a chance to enhance their presentation, team work and problem solving skills, which will increase their attractiveness to future employers. We are extremely grateful to IBM for their expertise and support in helping this to happen, and the Mayor’s positive involvement with the project. We look forward to further collaboration with IBM on the new Big Data in Business pathway for our MSc Information Management programme."

Rattanasuda Chamnankha, a member of the winning team, adds:

"We are very pleased and honoured to have won this competition, everybody has done a great job and we learned so much. Attending the Business Hackathon gave us the opportunity to gain new knowledge, come up with ideas within a limited time, and working in groups allowed us to gain ideas from different perspectives. This is a great achievement for us and the competition was fun and challenging."

Councillor Sarah Hacker, Mayor of Reading, who awarded prizes to the winning team and runners up, continues:

"The students did a great job and I congratulate them all. The ideas are really interesting and I hope they will inspire colleagues, care service providers, local businesses and community groups to consider taking forward these technologies into the real world to enhance support and engagement with the elderly in our community."
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