College tests independent-living smart home

  • August 22, 2022
  • Steve Rogerson

Portland College in the UK has created a living lab to test Oxfordshire-based independent living specialist ADS’s Smile smart homes.

Smile Homes installations aim to deliver sustainable, intelligent buildings for independent living for people with complex needs from learning to physical disabilities across the age spectrum.

The homes are constructed off-site and delivered as a fully completed personalised home. The building comes pre-fitted with a technology backbone to make the home clever enough to help look after the health and well-being of the person living in it, with the flexibility to support people with different needs in being as independent as they can.

The first unit installed at Portland College, co-funded by Innovate UK, the UK’s research and innovation agency, will be used as a living lab to demonstrate its flexible technology infrastructure, which can support a range of systems for integrated building, environment and personal management.

Portland learners and citizens will have the opportunity to test this independent living building and provide feedback on their experience to help shape future developments of the Smile Homes. Smile Homes have the capacity to add personalised assistive technology driven by the needs of the person who will live in the home. It can be programmed to function as the user needs, creating a person-centred system to support routines and sensory needs with multiple sensors to assess environment, physical and behavioural aspects while keeping data in the home for privacy and security.

 “Our intelligent Smile Homes system is a transformational change in the delivery of personalised homes for independent living for people with different abilities and complex needs,” said David Adams, chief executive of ADS. “We are delighted to have completed this milestone with our first Smile Homes installation at Portland College. We are looking forward to using this platform to drive innovation and delivery to enable people to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives in a home of their own, in a community of their choosing, which meets their needs and wishes.”

Almost exactly eleven years on from the Winterbourne View scandal, the pledge to offer people with learning disabilities and other needs genuine choice as to how and where they live has not been fulfilled. Winterbourne View was a private hospital in England in which people with learning disabilities were subject to physical and psychological abuse.

The failure to achieve the pledge has been in part due to the lack of availability of the right facilities and support. Purpose-built person-centred homes are few and far between, with the cost of converting existing accommodation too expensive, challenging and inconsistent with climate change objectives. People with needs continue to live and be cared for in inappropriate accommodation and there is a growing shortage of care staff in the UK.

The Smile Homes buildings are insulated, targeting operation at net zero, have solar panels and a green roof and use no concrete; the prototype has screw piles. Furthermore, they are capable of being re-used or re-manufactured and moved to a new site in line with the principles of a circular economy.

“Smile Homes is a fantastic example of exploiting technology to address major health, social and well-being issues, bringing innovation to the challenges of building fully accessible housing for people with disabilities and a range of medical conditions, using environmentally sustainable technology,” said Mark Dale, CEO of Portland College. “We’re proud to be hosting the first Smile Homes unit on campus and are looking forward to being involved in shaping the future of independent living.”