A day before I joined Apps for Good for their People’s Choice Award in Edinburgh I was at the SCVO Gathering where we were asked the question “How do you think we’ll be using technology 10 years from now?”
In answer to this we talked about automation, driverless cars and smart cities, how technology will infiltrate all areas of our life and what impact that might have. In groups we wrote a postcard to an individual or organisation to ask them to play a role in how the future is shaped by technology. Our group chose to write to young people, asking them to harness their enthusiasm and skills to help people – including elderly and disabled people – who are digitally isolated by building their confidence in using technology.
The following day I joined students from Wick High School, Dunoon Grammar and Drumchapel High School as they exhibited their tech for good ideas and prototypes. We were asked to vote for our favourite idea in the People’s Choice Awards. As I moved from one app idea to another I was blown away by the ideas, inspiration and thoughtfulness of the students.
All of the ideas were created to solve real problems which the teams had spent time researching carefully.
“Did you know that mouth burns make up 73% of first degree burns?” the creators of Safe Spoon asked me. I didn’t. The team went on to introduce me to their concept, a spoon with built in heat sensors which indicates whether the food is too hot for their baby to eat. With many of my friends entering parenthood for the first time I could see huge opportunities for this idea. In particular friends often tell me how tricky it can be to make sure bath water is cool enough for their babies, so I could see how this already amazing idea could quickly be adapted to the respond to multiple needs of parents and carers.
“Faulty electrics are one of the major causes of first in the UK, contributing to 20,000 a year in UK homes” the SafeSocket team told me. Their inspiration came from an experience in their community, where a house fire caused by an overheating socket led to a dog to die. “It could have been a person”, the team said. Their initiative notifies you if your sockets are at risk of overheating and enables users to automatically switch off their sockets.
Other ideas ranged from changing attitudes towards recycling by helping people to understand which bin to use for specific waste to make homes more accessible for elderly people or people with disabilities.
The wealth of imaginative ideas made voting difficult! In the end I went back to the question from the day before and asked myself “How would I like technology to be used in 10 years time”.
Given that there is already need, which will continue to grow, to support the ageing population to live independent and healthy lives at home I chose Med Note. A simple yet powerful idea which sends alerts to remind people take their medication at the right time during the day. To help people suffering from dementia or who have to take a high volume of tablets throughout the day the app sends a photo of the medication and links to a pill box with sensors. If the pills are not removed from the correct place at the correct time a family or carers can be alerted. It is innovations like this which combine sensor technology with effective communication design which empower individuals to maintain independence and dignity in their older years.
What struck me when meeting the students was the evident imagination in the ideas, the freedom of thought had led students to take truly creative approaches to problem solving. Reflecting on the event afterwards I wondered what we might have discussed in the day before at The Gathering if the students had been present too. What would they have said in answer to the question “How do you think we’ll be using technology 10 years from now?”.
Would they in fact be starting at a different place and moving towards more enriching dialogue by asking “What problems do we want to solve or eradicate in the next 10 years? Can technology be used in our solutions?”. This was my overwhelming impression of their presentations, these students are thinking about problem solving with technology, people and other resources as an enabler. It seems sensible to me that we take their lead and move in this direction too.