Rapid deployment of in-home connectivity for digitally excluded citizens
Helping people experiencing life changes to live independently
Care providers are increasingly using digital technologies to help vulnerable people live independently in their own homes.
Newcastle City Council’s Reablement Service saw that digital assistive technologies could help individuals at risk of falls.
However, these technologies require a reliable and secure internet connection.
Working with Urban Foresight, the council found that 46 per cent of people using reablement service did not have an internet connection in their own home.
Organising an internet connection can be a slow and expensive process. This would severely limit the council’s ability to quickly respond to the needs of these digitally excluded service users.
Solving the problem
Newcastle City Council and Urban Foresight engaged with a local business to trial an innovative internet network connection solution.
Trench Networks currently offers Wi-Fi solutions to construction sites, providing reliable, temporary internet connections for multiple devices without the need for any existing connectivity infrastructure.
Trench worked with the Reablement Service to design a product that could be easily operated by elderly users. This included a simple on/off switch and making provision for more complex configuration and operation to be managed remotely. Prototypes were rapidly produced using 3D printing.
Trench also established a customer support function to react to any technical issues or user difficulties during the trial.
In 2021, three individuals in the assistive technologies pilot were identified as being at risk of falls, but without an internet connection in their home.
A temporary connection was installed by Trench to support the Council’s deployment of an Amazon Echo Show device. This was used by the Reablement Service to remind patients to complete daily tasks, keep them active, entertained, and even in contact with friends and family who live apart from them.
This will improve their ability to live independently, improve their confidence in using digital technologies, and provide reassurance to their family members.
The trial gave the council learning on how to quickly deploy internet connectivity in the homes of vulnerable, digitally excluded patients. It also provided a solution to support wider rollout of digital assistive technologies in the Reablement Service.
Trench Networks also gained valuable learning to further develop its domestic connectivity product to meet a range of in-home care requirements and the opportunity to diversify into this new market.
Thanks in part to their involvement in the trial, Trench secured a round of investment funding worth £500,000 from the North East Venture Fund. This will support the creation of five new jobs and continued development of the Outpost flexible connectivity unit.
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