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TECHNOLOGY

Assistive Technologies For Independent Living

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Assistive Technologies For Independent Living

Independence is a fundamental aspect of human dignity, and in the modern age, technology is playing a pivotal role in ensuring that people with disabilities can lead more autonomous lives.

From smart home devices to innovative mobility aids, assistive technologies are transforming the landscape of independent living in the UK. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the exciting world of assistive technologies, highlighting how they empower individuals with disabilities to live life on their own terms.

Smart Home Automation

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Imagine controlling your home with just a few spoken words or the tap of a button. Smart home automation is making this a reality for many people with limited mobility. 

Devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home have become household staples, allowing users to control lights, thermostats, and even appliances with voice commands. For individuals with mobility challenges, this technology provides a newfound sense of control over their environment.

Beyond voice-controlled assistants, smart plugs, and bulbs, smart home systems can integrate security cameras, door locks, and motion sensors, enhancing safety and convenience. This means you can check who’s at the door, grant access remotely, and even monitor your home’s security from the comfort of your chair.

Mobility Aids: Beyond The Traditional Wheelchair

Mobility aids have come a long way, and they’re not just limited to traditional wheelchairs anymore. In the UK, you’ll find innovative solutions like the “Whill Model C,” a sleek and highly manoeuvrable electric wheelchair designed for both indoor and outdoor use. With its compact design, it’s perfect for navigating tight spaces.

For those who prefer a standing position, the “UPnRIDE” is a game-changer. This revolutionary device allows users to go from sitting to standing and vice versa with ease, promoting better posture, health, and social interaction.

Communication Devices

Communication is a fundamental human right, and assistive technologies are ensuring that everyone has a voice. Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices like the “Tobii Dynavox” enable individuals with speech disorders or limited mobility to express themselves effectively. 

These devices use eye-tracking technology to convert a user’s eye movements into spoken words or text, offering a lifeline to those who may have otherwise been unable to communicate.

Accessibility Apps

In the digital age, smartphones have become indispensable tools for everyone, including those with disabilities. 

A wide range of accessibility apps is available in the UK to cater to various needs. For instance, “Be My Eyes” connects blind and visually impaired users with sighted volunteers through a live video call, helping with tasks like reading labels or navigating unfamiliar surroundings.

“VoiceOver” and “TalkBack” are built-in screen readers for iOS and Android devices, respectively, making smartphones accessible to users with visual impairments. These apps read aloud the content on the screen and provide voice-guided navigation.

Wearable Technologies

Wearable devices are not just for tracking steps; they’re also making strides in enhancing the lives of people with limited mobility. 

“Smart glasses” equipped with cameras and augmented reality (AR) technology can identify objects and read text aloud to the wearer, providing valuable information about their surroundings.

Additionally, “smart gloves” with sensors and haptic feedback can help users with limited hand dexterity perform tasks like typing or grasping objects more easily. These gloves provide tactile feedback, making it easier to interact with digital interfaces and physical objects.

Environmental Control Systems

Environmental control systems (ECS) are the ultimate in-home automation for individuals with limited mobility. These systems enable users to control virtually every aspect of their living environment, from opening curtains to adjusting room temperature and even answering the doorbell. 

ECS can be operated through various input methods, including voice commands, switches, or specialised interfaces. By integrating ECS with other assistive technologies, individuals can achieve unparalleled independence and comfort in their daily lives.

Vehicle Adaptations

For many people with disabilities, having the ability to drive is a symbol of freedom and independence. 

In the UK, various vehicle adaptations make it possible for individuals with mobility challenges to hit the road safely. Hand controls, pedal extensions, and wheelchair-accessible vehicles and vans are just a few examples of how technology is breaking down barriers to transportation. If you would like to buy, hire or lease a wheelchair accessible vehicle that suits your unique needs, you’re sure to find the ideal motor with the help of Allied Mobility.

Of course, as we look to the future, the development of self-driving cars holds great promise. These autonomous vehicles have the potential to revolutionise mobility for individuals with disabilities, offering a new level of independence in transportation.

Assistive Gaming

Gaming is a popular pastime, and it’s becoming increasingly inclusive, thanks to assistive technologies. Specialised controllers and software adaptations allow gamers with disabilities to enjoy video games just like their able-bodied counterparts. Companies like Microsoft have introduced the Xbox Adaptive Controller, which is highly customisable to suit individual needs.

Moreover, virtual reality (VR) gaming is opening up exciting new possibilities. VR can provide immersive experiences that transcend physical limitations, allowing players to explore virtual worlds and engage in activities they might not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy.

Telehealth And Remote Monitoring

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Access to healthcare is a critical aspect of independent living. Telehealth services in the UK are bridging the gap by enabling individuals to consult with healthcare professionals from the comfort of their homes. Video consultations, remote monitoring devices, and mobile health apps are becoming increasingly prevalent, making it easier for people with disabilities to manage their health effectively.

The Road Ahead: Innovations On The Horizon

The field of assistive technology is ever-evolving, and the future holds even more promise. Researchers are exploring the potential of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that could allow users to control devices directly with their thoughts. 

Such innovations could revolutionise mobility and communication for individuals with severe disabilities.

Financial Assistance And Resources

While assistive technologies offer incredible opportunities for independent living, they can be costly. 

Fortunately, in the UK, various financial assistance options and resources are available to help individuals with disabilities acquire the necessary tools. There are grants and subsidies for assistive technology purchases, and local charities may also provide support.

Moreover, it’s essential to explore the services provided by organisations like “AbilityNet” and “Scope,” which offer guidance, assessments, and advice on assistive technologies. These organisations can help individuals navigate the complex landscape of funding and choose the most suitable technologies for their needs.

Overcoming Challenges And Barriers

While assistive technologies have come a long way in promoting independent living, there are still challenges and barriers that need to be addressed. One significant challenge is ensuring that these technologies are affordable and accessible to all individuals who require them. Inequality in access to assistive technology remains a concern in the UK and globally.

Additionally, there can be a learning curve associated with using new technologies. Users may require training and support to make the most of these tools effectively. Furthermore, ensuring that assistive technologies are integrated seamlessly into public spaces, such as transport systems and buildings, remains a priority for advocates of disability rights.

In A Nutshell

As you can see, assistive technologies are transforming the lives of people with limited mobility in the UK and around the world. These innovations are not only enhancing independence but also promoting inclusivity and equality. 

As technology continues to advance, we can expect even more exciting developments in the realm of assistive technologies, making the dream of full independence a reality for countless individuals.

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TECHNOLOGY

Next-gen chips, Amazon Q, and speedy S3

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AWS re:Invent, which has been taking place from November 27 and runs to December 1, has had its usual plethora of announcements: a total of 21 at time of print.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the huge potential impact of generative AI – ChatGPT officially turns one year old today – a lot of focus has been on the AI side for AWS’ announcements, including a major partnership inked with NVIDIA across infrastructure, software, and services.

Yet there has been plenty more announced at the Las Vegas jamboree besides. Here, CloudTech rounds up the best of the rest:

Next-generation chips

This was the other major AI-focused announcement at re:Invent: the launch of two new chips, AWS Graviton4 and AWS Trainium2, for training and running AI and machine learning (ML) models, among other customer workloads. Graviton4 shapes up against its predecessor with 30% better compute performance, 50% more cores and 75% more memory bandwidth, while Trainium2 delivers up to four times faster training than before and will be able to be deployed in EC2 UltraClusters of up to 100,000 chips.

The EC2 UltraClusters are designed to ‘deliver the highest performance, most energy efficient AI model training infrastructure in the cloud’, as AWS puts it. With it, customers will be able to train large language models in ‘a fraction of the time’, as well as double energy efficiency.

As ever, AWS offers customers who are already utilising these tools. Databricks, Epic and SAP are among the companies cited as using the new AWS-designed chips.

Zero-ETL integrations

AWS announced new Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL, Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon Relational Database Services (Amazon RDS) for MySQL integrations with Amazon Redshift, AWS’ cloud data warehouse. The zero-ETL integrations – eliminating the need to build ETL (extract, transform, load) data pipelines – make it easier to connect and analyse transactional data across various relational and non-relational databases in Amazon Redshift.

A simple example of how zero-ETL functions can be seen is in a hypothetical company which stores transactional data – time of transaction, items bought, where the transaction occurred – in a relational database, but use another analytics tool to analyse data in a non-relational database. To connect it all up, companies would previously have to construct ETL data pipelines which are a time and money sink.

The latest integrations “build on AWS’s zero-ETL foundation… so customers can quickly and easily connect all of their data, no matter where it lives,” the company said.

Amazon S3 Express One Zone

AWS announced the general availability of Amazon S3 Express One Zone, a new storage class purpose-built for customers’ most frequently-accessed data. Data access speed is up to 10 times faster and request costs up to 50% lower than standard S3. Companies can also opt to collocate their Amazon S3 Express One Zone data in the same availability zone as their compute resources.  

Companies and partners who are using Amazon S3 Express One Zone include ChaosSearch, Cloudera, and Pinterest.

Amazon Q

A new product, and an interesting pivot, again with generative AI at its core. Amazon Q was announced as a ‘new type of generative AI-powered assistant’ which can be tailored to a customer’s business. “Customers can get fast, relevant answers to pressing questions, generate content, and take actions – all informed by a customer’s information repositories, code, and enterprise systems,” AWS added. The service also can assist companies building on AWS, as well as companies using AWS applications for business intelligence, contact centres, and supply chain management.

Customers cited as early adopters include Accenture, BMW and Wunderkind.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

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TECHNOLOGY

HCLTech and Cisco create collaborative hybrid workplaces

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Digital comms specialist Cisco and global tech firm HCLTech have teamed up to launch Meeting-Rooms-as-a-Service (MRaaS).

Available on a subscription model, this solution modernises legacy meeting rooms and enables users to join meetings from any meeting solution provider using Webex devices.

The MRaaS solution helps enterprises simplify the design, implementation and maintenance of integrated meeting rooms, enabling seamless collaboration for their globally distributed hybrid workforces.

Rakshit Ghura, senior VP and Global head of digital workplace services, HCLTech, said: “MRaaS combines our consulting and managed services expertise with Cisco’s proficiency in Webex devices to change the way employees conceptualise, organise and interact in a collaborative environment for a modern hybrid work model.

“The common vision of our partnership is to elevate the collaboration experience at work and drive productivity through modern meeting rooms.”

Alexandra Zagury, VP of partner managed and as-a-Service Sales at Cisco, said: “Our partnership with HCLTech helps our clients transform their offices through cost-effective managed services that support the ongoing evolution of workspaces.

“As we reimagine the modern office, we are making it easier to support collaboration and productivity among workers, whether they are in the office or elsewhere.”

Cisco’s Webex collaboration devices harness the power of artificial intelligence to offer intuitive, seamless collaboration experiences, enabling meeting rooms with smart features such as meeting zones, intelligent people framing, optimised attendee audio and background noise removal, among others.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

Tags: Cisco, collaboration, HCLTech, Hybrid, meetings

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TECHNOLOGY

Canonical releases low-touch private cloud MicroCloud

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Canonical has announced the general availability of MicroCloud, a low-touch, open source cloud solution. MicroCloud is part of Canonical’s growing cloud infrastructure portfolio.

It is purpose-built for scalable clusters and edge deployments for all types of enterprises. It is designed with simplicity, security and automation in mind, minimising the time and effort to both deploy and maintain it. Conveniently, enterprise support for MicroCloud is offered as part of Canonical’s Ubuntu Pro subscription, with several support tiers available, and priced per node.

MicroClouds are optimised for repeatable and reliable remote deployments. A single command initiates the orchestration and clustering of various components with minimal involvement by the user, resulting in a fully functional cloud within minutes. This simplified deployment process significantly reduces the barrier to entry, putting a production-grade cloud at everyone’s fingertips.

Juan Manuel Ventura, head of architectures & technologies at Spindox, said: “Cloud computing is not only about technology, it’s the beating heart of any modern industrial transformation, driving agility and innovation. Our mission is to provide our customers with the most effective ways to innovate and bring value; having a complexity-free cloud infrastructure is one important piece of that puzzle. With MicroCloud, the focus shifts away from struggling with cloud operations to solving real business challenges” says

In addition to seamless deployment, MicroCloud prioritises security and ease of maintenance. All MicroCloud components are built with strict confinement for increased security, with over-the-air transactional updates that preserve data and roll back on errors automatically. Upgrades to newer versions are handled automatically and without downtime, with the mechanisms to hold or schedule them as needed.

With this approach, MicroCloud caters to both on-premise clouds but also edge deployments at remote locations, allowing organisations to use the same infrastructure primitives and services wherever they are needed. It is suitable for business-in-branch office locations or industrial use inside a factory, as well as distributed locations where the focus is on replicability and unattended operations.

Cedric Gegout, VP of product at Canonical, said: “As data becomes more distributed, the infrastructure has to follow. Cloud computing is now distributed, spanning across data centres, far and near edge computing appliances. MicroCloud is our answer to that.

“By packaging known infrastructure primitives in a portable and unattended way, we are delivering a simpler, more prescriptive cloud experience that makes zero-ops a reality for many Industries.“

MicroCloud’s lightweight architecture makes it usable on both commodity and high-end hardware, with several ways to further reduce its footprint depending on your workload needs. In addition to the standard Ubuntu Server or Desktop, MicroClouds can be run on Ubuntu Core – a lightweight OS optimised for the edge. With Ubuntu Core, MicroClouds are a perfect solution for far-edge locations with limited computing capabilities. Users can choose to run their workloads using Kubernetes or via system containers. System containers based on LXD behave similarly to traditional VMs but consume fewer resources while providing bare-metal performance.

Coupled with Canonical’s Ubuntu Pro + Support subscription, MicroCloud users can benefit from an enterprise-grade open source cloud solution that is fully supported and with better economics. An Ubuntu Pro subscription offers security maintenance for the broadest collection of open-source software available from a single vendor today. It covers over 30k packages with a consistent security maintenance commitment, and additional features such as kernel livepatch, systems management at scale, certified compliance and hardening profiles enabling easy adoption for enterprises. With per-node pricing and no hidden fees, customers can rest assured that their environment is secure and supported without the expensive price tag typically associated with cloud solutions.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

Tags: automation, Canonical, MicroCloud, private cloud

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