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Research in the field of Smart Environments has become one of the key themes within the Computer Science Research Institute at Ulster University where activities focus on the problems associated with ageing, those suffering from long term chronic conditions and the general theme of promoting healthy lifestyles.

Although not being claimed as the definitive solution, the use of technology is being widely recognised as having a significant role to play within these topical areas.

The increased prevalence of technology usage, its reduced costs and improved processing and communication speeds are all key factors which have resulted in new technology based solutions being investigated within the realms of smart environments.

A suite of Smart Environments

To support this work the Smart Environments Research Group (SERG) at Ulster University has created a suite of smart environments.

A smart kitchen, smart bedroom and smart living room have been created to support the investigation into the area of assistive technologies and activity recognition.

In addition, a newly refurbished robotics laboratory is being used to investigate the development of autonomous robotics which could be used within home based settings.

To complement this, a set of 400 sensing nodes is currently available to be deployed in a smart environment covering a footprint of over 6,800 square feet.

A multitude of mobile platforms and a recently installed mobile laboratory support the scale up of the group’s efforts within the domain of Smart Communities and Smart Cities.

The impact of our work

To ascertain the impact of this work it is essential to engage with end users to consider their views on developed solutions and also to incorporate their unmet needs into future iterations.

Within SERG there are a number of projects which fall within this remit. Ongoing user evaluations with mobile phone based reminding systems for persons with dementia are helping to define a technology roadmap for next generation cognitive prosthetics.

Collaborations with user groups for the long term chronic conditions of chronic pain, stroke and chronic heart failure are assisting in the development of home based technology for the purposes of self-monitoring and self-management of health and well being parameters.

Finally, collaborations with active ageing user groups are supporting the development of intelligent garments to promote the paradigm of active ageing within smart communities and smart cities.

A national and international reputation

The Smart Environments Research Group has a national and international reputation for undertaking and leading fore-front high-quality research in the area of smart environments. It has competencies in the design,  development and evaluation of smart homes, assistive technologies, pervasive and mobile computing and intelligent assistive systems.

From a technical perspective the group has extensive expertise in multimedia processing, semantic modelling, representation and reasoning, novel interface design and their applied research for sensor data processing, ADL (activity of daily living) modelling, recognition and semantic/know-ledge based personalised assistance provisioning.

In addition to having extensive technical expertise the group has been involved in supporting the evaluation and analysis of a number of trials in the areas of dementia,  active ageing,  stroke, long term chronic pain,  CHF and autism.

Engagement with Industry

We have a very strong engagement with industry within the group with the aim to make a real impact from our research from a commercial perspective.  Most notably,  in 2014 we established the Northern Ireland Connected Health Innovation Competence Centre (NI-CHIC).

This centre aims to provide Northern Ireland with a world-class, industry led, organisation and facility, within which high-quality R&D, networking, Intellectual Property (IP) generation and brokering can be conducted on the applications of connected health at a scale that is industrially and clinically-relevant and compatible with the types of design, production and manufacturing scale which are undertaken by our industrial consortium partners.

At present the centre has over 25 industrial members and has completed/currently working on over 20 collaborative R&D Projects.