Quarkside

31/05/2014

Kemuri: Cisco Grand Challenge Entry

Filed under: Innovation,People,Social Care — lenand @ 8:34 am
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Kemuri wants more people to share this vision:

People living longer, happier and healthier

in their own homes

with non-intrusive social support

from family, friends and carers

Kemuri products and services will help towards achieving it for more families of vulnerable people living alone.  Kemuri has entered a competition, “Cisco Internet of Things Innovation Grand Challenge”. The winner will receive a prize worth US$200,000. Winning would boost the ability to scale quickly to a service for thousands of families with older people living alone. A place in the semi-finals is guaranteed if the entry “Social care costs reduced with IoT sensors and predictive monitoring” is “liked” by the most number of people. To make sure that people are genuinely interested, Cisco require people to register on the Innovation web site.

The publicity for being top of the poll would be useful, even if it does not lead to winning the top prize.  Spreading the link would help to gather a few more votes for a worthwhile social enterprise that could have an impact on every family that is concerned about the wellbeing of vulnerable people living alone.

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21/10/2013

IoT sensor price crash

Filed under: People,Technology — lenand @ 11:41 am
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TI is producing a sensor device with six functions for $25.

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Pressure
  • Accelerometer
  • Gyroscope
  • Magnetometer

That’s less than $5 per measurement.  Most would be useful in a home environment connecting to a smart phone or personal computer.

Such low cost equipment could be part of an infrastructure that helps families to support independent living of older and other vulnerable people.  The data from such a device could be combined with data from smart meters, and other equipment monitors, to give insight into daily behaviour patterns.

26/05/2013

Ageing: Digital Half-Life Policy

Filed under: Innovation,People,Policy,Technology — lenand @ 7:53 am
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Digital technology will impact everybody in the second half of their lives.  The age from 50 to 100, for the vast majority of people, will be a decline of most faculties until death do them claim.  Now is the time to think of the technology implications and develop a policy for public debate.

Here’s a table that shows the decreasing personal digital needs of people over 50 and the increasing needs of their family, friends and service agencies.  There’s an shift from being active and independent to moribund and entirely dependent and others. There a wide range of intermediate states of health and vigour, and digital needs should be individually tailored for the best outcomes.

Digital half life - Needs

Digital half life – Needs

The active, social person with no major health problems has lots of choice with the faculties to manage digital technology with ease.  For many this can last into their nineties.  However, the vast majority steadily need more external support. They wish to live independently, and this becomes easier and more economical if they accept external monitoring services. Currently these are expensive, using old technology in the home.  There are gaps in the market for home monitoring services – some idea is given in the table below:

Digital half life - Gaps

Digital half life – Gaps

The Internet of Things will lead the revolution.  Low cost home networked sensors are critical to the way forward.  It also needs good communications to data centres and analytical software as part of an affordable infrastructure.  Automatic sensing of changes to normal behaviour are necessary, in addition to the commonplace detector alarms.  With intelligent investment, the UK could develop a World leading technology industry.

18/05/2013

Prepare to grow old

Filed under: Innovation,People,Technology — lenand @ 7:54 am
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Quarkside does not need to do research when there are already good resources. For example, a review of the Telecare market produced by the Aktive project.  The UK claims to be leading the world and the Technology Strategy Board is pumping funds into ageing related projects.

The message is that people should consider installing technology in the whilst they are fit and active. This will have to be self-funded, because statutory health and care agencies bodies will not pay until there is a crisis. By monitoring normal daily activity, advanced software can detect changes that point to action that could prevent a crisis.  Potential savings are enormous.  Being able to live in your own house for one year extra is worth £30,000 to £50,000.

The minor problem for the elderly, or major opportunity for entrepreneurs, is that nobody is supplying a low cost home activity monitoring service.  DIY is not an option.

08/05/2013

Sustaining digital engagement by older people

Filed under: Governance,People,Policy,Technology — lenand @ 6:57 am
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Not many people realise that elderly people become more disengaged with ICT as they become older.  They ‘fall off the bandwagon’.  There is plenty evidence and the relevance is summarised in this St George’s House Consultation.

“It has been shown that ICTs can help the fifty-plus population to live independently, access government and commercial services, and engage socially. However, very many older people remain offline and unconnected. Even more worryingly, some of the older people who may at some point have gone online may subsequently disengage, i.e. they do not stay online. They face particular, age-related barriers including physical and cognitive changes, transformation of social and family environment, as well as fast-altering technology. More general barriers include distrust lest they be exploited by commercial providers, and incomprehension of ICT terminology and jargon. Meanwhile, technologies continue to evolve at a bewildering rate. The challenge is not just to help (older) people to get online in the first place, but to provide a context which will help them to overcome challenges posed to their on-going digital engagement (whether by changes in capability, social support or technology) and to develop their own skills and competencies as far as they wish to do so.”

This theme will be followed in subsequent postings.

14/11/2012

IDS gets IDs; but has he lost the plot?

Filed under: Local Government,People,Policy,Politics — lenand @ 1:40 pm
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Computer Weekly has a searching blog about the state of the Universal Credit Programme.  The risk is that too many people are concentrating on the technology, such as the recent announcement of the suppliers selected for the ID Assurance programme.

What few people have talked about, are the horrors expected when UC goes operational.  The reduction in benefits is going to cause distress in many households that are already at breaking point. The Local CIO Council discussed this last week and here are some of the issues raised – none of which have Technology solutions:

  • Thousands of properties are “underoccupied”, benefits will be reduced, families will have to downsize.
  • Digital By Design is inappropriate for many people that are socially and digitally excluded. They will need costly, face to face, mediated access.
  • Some large councils are expecting to lose £100m.
  • More homelessness is expected by Councils and the Voluntary Sector.
  • Domestic violence and suicides are expected to increase.
  • Schools will see more hungry children.
  • Child abuse is expected to rise – remember that every child taken into care will cost a local authority £250,000.
  • Some currently exempt people will have to start paying council tax, which are often small amounts that are too costly to collect
  • Releasing Section 106 obligations will compound homelessness problems.
  • B&B costs and will increase, as will relocation into different boroughs

As one respected member said “IDS has lost his sense of reality”.  He may get his IDs, but at what cost to Councils and their poorer citizens?

12/02/2012

7DIG: Time needs more than philosophy

Filed under: Assets,Governance,Objectives,Outcomes,People,Process,Risk,Time — lenand @ 10:08 am
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The Time component of the seven dimensional information governance (7DIG) framework was of little practical interest.  The spatio-temporal paradigm may hold the philosophical high ground, but a treatise on Gantt charts would have been out of place.  Serendipity has revealed a practical product, which is free, and is based on a philosophy of teams doing the right thing at the right time.  It brings together the People who have to do the information governance with the Process that sets Objectives and uses Assets to achieve the desired Outcomes.  And it has a Risk register.

It is project based – ideal for setting up an Information Governance process and should be adaptable for continuous monitoring. Look at some of the features:

  1. People from any department or supplier
  2. Assets, such as an information asset register and documentation, as a sharable resources
  3. Objectives, as part of the textual description including a breakdown into areas of interest or phases of work
  4. Process description in the form of tasks, which can be repeatable, taking us through the identification to deletion cycle
  5. Outcomes by the way of documented completion of tasks and compliance with targets
  6. Time charts, calendars, milestones and the possibility to export to your favourite Gantt chart tools
  7. Risk register, very simple to input and understand but good enough in most Information Governance régimes

The openness is especially encouraging.  It is completely Web-based and viewable from your iPod, iPhone or iPad.  Even the name is encouraging – Teamwork.

Quarkside wondered why such a simple product has not popped up in the radar previously.  Maybe it has only been promoted within the systems development community – and not yet reached public sector ICT managers.  Another job for Socitm?

08/12/2011

IDs for a UK Citizen Account

Quarkside has just heard of a way to solve the following problems:

  • Benefits costs
  • Under employed people
  • Education maintenance allowance
  • University living costs
  • Basic pensions
  • Enhanced pensions
  • Recovering money for fines
  • Health costs

It requires setting up a citizen account (UK citizens only) for EVERY citizen, including children. For sake of an abbreviation, we will call it the UK Citizen Account (UCA). The following rights are given, they are paid from taxation, without exception, into a freely spendable account (FSA).

  • 0-16 child allowance, spendable by nominated parent or guardian
  • 16-18 youth allowance, spendable by the young person
  • 19-24 tertiary education allowance, spendable by the citizen
  • 24-67 working age allowance
  • 67-80 first pension
  • 80+ second pension

Alongside the government input is personal input which is a proportion of taxable income.  This is a protected endowment account (PEA).  The main aim is to build up a personal fund that can be drawn down as housing, pension, health and mid-life education.  The nearest analogy is Singapore’s Central Provident Fund (CPF).  It is a colonial legacy: ” When the Japanese Occupation ended in 1945, Singapore became a British colony again. Life was hard. People struggled to make ends meet. To ensure that workers could take care of themselves in their old age, the Central Provident Fund was set up as a compulsory savings scheme. ”

The benefits to the government are:

  • Simplicity of administration – entitlements are universal, every citizen independent of other income
  • Means tested benefits cease, such as housing benefit.
  • Personal National Insurance (NI) contributions are paid into the PEA, like a compulsory personal insurance.
  • Employers NI contributions are paid into the PEA as a percentage of taxable income.
  • Debts to the government can be taken from the fund, eg fines, unpaid taxes.
  • Choice by the citizen for medical treatment.  The tariffs are well documented.  A percentage is taken from the PEA for every access to NHS services – lower percentage for basic services (10%) – higher percentage for more expensive, private care provision (90%).
  • Funding for infrastructure from accrued savings
  • Funding for low cost housing by giving loans from accrued personal PEA savings
  • Choice to use the PEA for adult education and retraining for new skills.   The Working Age Allowance is always paid to provide some basic income.

The benefits to the citizen are:

  • Guaranteed untaxed income throughout life, whether working or not.
  • Working will always be better than not working.
  • Protected Fund, built up by work, for spending on housing, further education, pensions and health.
  • Additional contributions from employers (including self-employed), interest on account and profits from fund investments.
  • Opportunity to obtain a mortgage from funds accrued – commercial interest rates will be charged.
  • Opportunity to pay for adult education or re-training.
  • No risk of bankrupt or stolen pension funds.
  • Choice to pay for care at home or residential homes.
  • The residue on death forms part of the estate – not taken by the government.

The details can be sorted out, but it avoids the costly mistake of Universal Credits.  Such a total restructure of the welfare state means sacrificing sacred cows. Singapore now has a handle on social welfare costs, unlike the UK.  They have a successful economy.  Rationing of health costs is left to citizens and their families.

And the governance issue is: – citizens will need to have a trusted Identity,  without too many duplicates.  Perhaps this will be good enough to allow them to vote, too.

27/10/2011

No room for oldies

Filed under: People,Policy — lenand @ 2:56 pm
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The Default Retirement Age (DRA) was abolished with effect from 01 October 2011. NYCC has adopted an Employer Justified Retirement Age (EJRA) to address existing workforce demographics by attracting and recruiting under-represented groups to vacancies where it is appropriate to do so.

Don’t expect to keep working after age 65, even if you haven’t built up a pension. Age discrimination is live and well.

——-

Having thought a bit more about it, there is no change as far as an employee is concerned – but there is additional bureaucracy for employers. They have to concoct a new policy, set up measuring mechanisms and monitor successful application of the policy. At least with the DRA there was no opportunity for argument about age discrimination or unfair dismissal. SMEs will not be able to afford setting up an EJRA – who will not have the resources to refresh their staff of octogenarians.

The big employers will have no problem with age discrimination, it will just cost them more to administer in the HR department.

What happened to DWP’s policy encouraging older people to continue working after the DRA?

“in order to allow people the choice about when and how to retire.”

05/05/2011

Household Hold-up. Universal Complexity

Filed under: Governance,Local Government,People,Policy,Process,Technology — lenand @ 8:53 am
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The first page of the Impact Assessment of Universal Credit programme, published in February, makes it clear that HOUSEHOLD is the basic unit of measure:

“In nearly 1.1 million workless households, a person would currently lose more than 70 per cent of their earnings if they move into work of 10 hours a week. The incentives to increase hours once in work are also very weak. At present around 0.7m households in low paid work would lose more than 80 per cent of any increase in their earnings because of higher tax or withdrawn benefits.”

This is great for statistical analysis, such as the principal source of data “DWP Policy Simulation Model (based on FRS 2008/9), 2014/15”.  Modellers are not concerned about the problems of individual low income people nor the staff making benefits decisions.  Quarkside now understands the difficulty of DWP officials answering straight questions like ‘What is a household?”.  Sympathy is due when they are expected to translate into Plain English paragraphs such as these:

32. In most cases workless households experience no change in their entitlement in static financial terms. This is because they do not benefit from the earnings disregard, and their basic benefit rates are as in the current benefit and Tax Credit system.

33. Claimants who are under 25, who are childless and not disabled, are currently unable to claim WTC when they are in work. Therefore they will benefit from the removal of this exclusion within Universal Credit. Likewise households who are working part-time and who receive Tax Credits and other benefits, will gain from the fact that they will have a lower withdrawal rate than under the current system and because they are likely to have a higher earnings disregard.

34. Working households not currently receiving WTC but receiving other benefits will tend to have higher entitlements under Universal Credit. They benefit from the fact the Universal Credit taper is lower than the combined taper on their current suite of benefits and Tax Credits, but they do not experience an offsetting reduction due to the removal of WTC.

35. If households are working less than 16 hours, and are either disabled or have children, then they benefit from the fact that their earnings disregards are generally higher than under the current system. Because they are working below 16 hours they are not currently entitled to WTC, and so will not be affected by the fact that the generosity of WTC is duplicated in the current system.

36. If households are in receipt of Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and Tax Credits then they will have a lower withdrawal rate under Universal Credit and so are more likely to receive higher entitlements.

37. Around 200,000 households who are currently not eligible for Tax Credits because their household income is above the eligibility threshold, also receive Council Tax Benefit in the current system. These households will not be eligible for Universal Credit.

38. The households with lower entitlements will tend to be claimants who are in one or more of the following categories;

    • Those in receipt of a large amount of WTC; 
    • Those who do not receive HB/CTB;
    • Those who have a low disregard;
    • Households with substantial amounts of capital.

The policy is not in question.  The ability of agile analysts and systems developers to translate this into code that is consistent with primary legislation is the issue.  Household is a portmanteau word that is concrete enough for shaping policy, but is melting jelly in the minds of people who have to design forms and distribute money.  Computer programmers need to know whether an “or” in a sentence is of the inclusive or exclusive variety.  Drafters of legislation, fresh out of a politics degree, may not even know there is a difference. There are alternative approaches to controlling the costs of social welfare – but the have not appeared in radar of politicians.

Eventually it will be recognised that the solution is totally dependent on Technology.  If necessary, the Governance legislation and the Process practices will have to change.  UK Central Government, and their suppliers, are incapable of embracing such a concept.  UK Local Government will just have to pick up the pieces of broken households.

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