AARNet to Kinect the elderly over the NBN

The network provider has joined a collaborative project driven by the IBES which aims to keep the elderly active in their homes

The Australian Academic Research Network (AARNet) has jumped onboard a collaborative broadband project to develop enabling technology for the elderly to exercise at home over the National Broadband Network (NBN).

AARNet chief executive, Chris Hancock, told Computerworld Australia that the 18-month project, driven by the Moreland City Council and supported by the University of Melbourne's Institute for a Broadband Enabled Society (IBES), will aim to teach the elderly how to use ICT for health outcomes, whether they are in a wheelchair or are able to stand, and will allow them to exercise different muscles in the body.

“We also believe it’ll help reduce their social isolation and improve their frailty and social inclusion and get them exercising and just generally building up their support and confidence,” Hancock said

The project will use Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Kinect platform, which will be developed in coming months to enable a physiotherapist located at one central point to lead participants through various exercises, with each person having their own avatar.

Hancock could not disclose the funding allocated for the project but said it was a combination of funding from the Victorian Government’s Broadband Enabled Innovation Program as well as conrtibutions from additional partners including NBN Co, Microsoft, the National Ageing Research Institute, Council on the Ageing and Merri Community Health Services.

AARNet will connect the first 20 elderly residents who are participating in the trial, located in the first NBN release site of Brunswick in Victoria. The NBN services will be essential to the initiative, Hancock said.

“The key to this is using the NBN over AARNet to provide the service. At this stage we don’t know the capacity bandwidth that will be involved, but we do know it’ll need to be low latency — because it’ll be something you want instantly, as opposed to it being a slow connection so you need something relatively high bandwidth as this progresses.”

“This is it’s just the beginning," he said "We’ll be able to build on this and I suspect for the second phase of this they’ll have a video screen where they’ll actually be able to see and talk to everyone. That would be a nice flow on to develop and I think that’s when you get multiple devices operating and multiple programs in the home and therefore you need higher bandwidth.”

The trial will kick off early next year, beginning with the project scope, network and the ICT components being established along with developments in software, following this there will be a pre-assessment of participants mid-year, then a six month exercise trial going through to April 2013. At the completion of the trial a project evaluation will take place.

According to Hancock, if the trial is successful there is no reason the technology won’t be rolled out nationwide along with the NBN.

“I think this is a game-changer and I think the NBN will complement this… this is the very start of the journey we’ve been talking about and this is why bandwidths of 100 megabits per second will be necessary into homes, because people will be using multiple devices to get the sorts of services we’re talking about here.”

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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