With the objective to market solutions developed in the AAL within a timeframe of 2-3 years, the programme foresees all development activities taking place in the ManyMe project to be carried out in close cooperation with future end-users. Beneficiaries, investors and interest groups are invited to have a say in the making, to help embrace a conceptual approach that comes as close as possible to the daily needs of the envisaged target group. ManyMe therefore follows the concept of co-designing, a user centered approach that suggests all phases of the development to be actively shaped by future beneficiaries, buyers and other stakeholders. Not only shall the solution respond to the most pertinent issues in daily life and tackle these for the sake of prolonging independence and self-determination of older adults in their own homes. Also, it shall be appealing from a consumer perspective, making the product attractive for acquisition and daily use. Co-designing therefore also involves the removal of barriers, both regarding prejudice against novel ICT and usability and accessibility of the product design: It prepares participants as future users, helps adjusting technology and strategic approaches and enables the project to develop suitable market strategies.
End-users will accompany the ManyMe project in three phases of co-designing: understanding, conceptualization and testing. Understanding means learning more about future users, their requirements and characteristics und typical problems, contributing to the objective to derive suitable problem statements. Conceptualization refers to the intellectual transfer of requirements into ideas. Use cases are specified and development objectives adjusted. Results are then transferred into suitable technology that is ultimately reviewed, tested and fine-tuned in feedback loops with increasing product maturity, resulting into field pilotes in which final versions are being validated and concepts be proven under real conditions of the target group.
The ManyMe project is about to finalize the first of these phases, namely the understanding of user requirements. In the course of the past six month, the end-user organizations EURAG from Austria, Materia from Cyprus, MOB from the Netherlands and terzStiftung from Switzerland engaged in extensive data collection and analysis among target groups in the four different countries. Private individuals with memory problems as well as mildly to moderately demented patients participated in special interview sessions, just as professional care personnel, family, friends and other loved ones of the primary user group. The interviews took place June through August, preceded by intensive state-of the art review, elucidation of project requirements and recruitment of suitable volunteers.
Following a small pilot in all four countries, a total of ca. 80 participants have been sighted over the two phases, the outcomes of which will be validated in a survey sent out to a larger population from the end-user-organizations databases. The interviews were divided into five subject areas. The first one covers the daily life, including challenges, routines and emotional as well as mental conditions. This serves as overview of the problems and challenges that primary and secondary end-users face in their everyday life seeing the impairment. The second section focused on care activities. Problem-solving, assistance, procedures were analysed to with the objective to identify potential for improve by use of ICT. The next section treated the social aspects like partaking in activities, information sharing and the involvement of communities in the target group’s daily grind. The interviews concerning this subject area will help to find solutions for a friendly and enjoyable environment supported by ICT solutions. Care recipients shall be empowered to make friends, attend support groups or simply talk to peers. Motivation and learning was the subject of the fourth section which included education, consulting, problem-solving attitude and incentives. This information will be used to learn if and how patients could be motivated to learn and which information caregivers need to optimize in the process of caring. The fifth and last section reflected on ICT as such. Special interest was given to the handling of devices, acceptance of adoption and possible areas of application. With this part of the questionnaire the consortium wanted to learn which types of ICT are helpful for caregivers and recipients as well as their areas of application and if primary end-users would accept ICT in general. The questionnaire design was led by the conviction that smart and well-implemented ICT solutions can improve wellbeing and mitigate physical, psychological and economical risks to the involved user groups.
Whereas the survey is underway, final results are expected by September 2017 as part of the project‘s first substantial deliverable. This latter will serve to identify aspiration, needs, and specific requirements of each target group for using ICT technologies and support the development team in defining the corresponding problems statements, concepts and solutions in the upcoming project phases.