Hampshire County Council Trials Amazon’s Alexa For Social Care

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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The council says smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo can improve clients’ quality of life and cut councils’ costs

Hampshire County Council is piloting the use of Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant to help support people with severe disabilities.

Graham Allen, the county’s director of adult social care, said at the ShareDigital conference that the council is trialling Amazon Echo devices in the sector.

The Department of Health last year funded the council to carry out a proof of concept for the project.

It’s working with the Argenti Telehealthcare Partnership to set up devices for 50 social care clients over the course of a one-year period.

Amazon’s Echo smart speaker

Quality of life

The devices can significantly improve quality of life for people with little or no mobility due to conditions such as multiple sclerosis or motor neurone disease, Allen said.

The council has been linking Alexa voice-controlled devices to other gadgets in the house, such as Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, so that clients are able to operate the television without having to manipulate a physical device.

“It’s about enabling people to live well rather than simply live,” Allen said in comments reported by UK Authority.

The council had installed 25 devices up to the middle of February and presently has another six installations scheduled.

About 9,500 people are currently using the council’s telecare service. Of those, more than 5,000 use only telecare, and don’t rely on other services, Allen said.

“Part of our success is that we’ve managed to replace a lot of traditional forms of service through the application of technology,” he said.

The council also provisions tablet computers to reduce client isolation.

AI in the public sector

Allen said the technology helped the department reduce costs by £43.1 million over the past two years, with a new programme aimed at further cutting costs by £56m.

Last month Public Health England said it would launch an Alexa-based service offering round-the-clock advice to breastfeeding mothers. The service is also available as a chatbot on Facebook Messenger.

The deployment of artificial intelligence technologies in various forms is expected to affect about one-third of jobs in the public sector by the mid-2030s, PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a study published last month.

AI featured significantly in the government’s industrial strategy last year.

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