UPDATED 15:30 EDT / DECEMBER 28 2018

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Alexa app for elderly aid bridges digital divide, acts as companion

Isn’t it great when mind-bending technology and product development come down the chute to solve a real human problem? Diverse industries are applying the latest advancements in artificial intelligence to everyday consumer issues.

For example,  the AI technology in Amazon Alexa’s virtual assistant could prove a handy in-home healthcare assistant, according to Dr. Justin Marley (pictured, right), consultant psychiatrist at Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT). Together with Accenture LLP consultants, Marley developed an Alexa skill and web portal to aid the elderly.

“Our mission is to help people feel socially connected in this … always changing digital world and stay independent in their own home for a bit longer,” Marley said.

The aid works just like a smartphone application. It applies sophisticated AI and voice-recognition technology to a number of everyday tasks, processes, etc. “It’s constantly learning the behaviors that they’re doing on a daily basis,” said Gayle Sirard (pictured, left), applied intelligence lead, North America, at Accenture LLP.

It can monitor users’ mental health, remind them to take medication, and encourage them to participate in local activities, to name a few features.

Dr. Marley, Sirard and Chris Ashley (pictured, left), technology consultant at Accenture UK, spoke with Rebecca Knight (@knightrm), host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile livestreaming studio, during the AWS Executive Summit in Las Vegas. They discussed how they’re addressing elderly care issues with technology. (* Disclosure below.)

In-house AI for the iPad challenged

The new tool is a companion that talks to users and gets to know them through its machine-learning capabilities.

“It might be for people with dementia; it might just be for people who are alone and they feel a bit socially isolated,” Marley said.

It not only helps elderly patients with healthcare issues — it also helps bridge the digital divide. “The older adult population haven’t grown up with this technology, so they’re a little bit disconnected from all of this, which just adds to everything else,” Ashley said.

The Alexa platform has the power to make tasks that would be confusing or bothersome for older people very simple, according to Marley. For instance, they might fiddle with an iPad, unlock it, keep it charged, locate a contact, place the call.

“It’s much easier to say, ‘Alexa, call my daughter,'” Marley explained.

It can also communicate with internet of things-connected sensors. “So if you put a sensor on the fridge, on the bathroom door, in the bed, you work out whether people are sleeping enough, whether they’re eating enough food, whether they’re drinking enough, and you’re augmenting that role of the caregiver,” he concluded.

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of the AWS Executive Summit. (* Disclosure: TheCUBE is a paid media partner for the AWS Executive Summit event. Neither Accenture LLP, the event sponsor, nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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