I, Cobot: Could Robotics Have a Role to Play in Delivering Care?



October 8, 2019 7:42 am

I, Cobot: Could Robotics Have a Role to Play in Delivering Care?

This is the question we are seeking to answer as a result of some ground-breaking work with PA Consulting and Hampshire County Council.

Working together, PA and Hampshire County Council have established a reputation for innovation in the field of care enabled technology, both nationally and internationally. Together, we have seen the huge benefits technology can bring, and are actively exploring the further potential it could have in the care sector.

The challenges facing the care sector are well known – demand for care is rising, cases are more complex and budgets are constrained. To meet the demand, Hampshire estimates an extra 8,000 people in caring jobs could be needed in five years. Recruiting and retaining care staff and keeping them safe and well at work is becoming harder than ever. We believe technology will have an increasingly important role in addressing care workforce challenges.

While existing technology solutions alone will not solve our challenges, if we wait for technology developers to shape the market we will lose valuable time and potentially end up with technology that doesn’t meet the needs of the care sector. We understand our challenges, the needs of our users and the importance of our workforce, so we are taking control and stepping into unchartered waters for the UK care sector by actively exploring a new physical assistive technology – Cobots.

Cobots (Collaborative Robots) are robots that work in conjunction with, not instead of, a human. They are a worn, like an active exoskeleton, to help the wearer move and carry out tasks such as lifting and handling and are already used in other sectors in the UK and in the care sector in Japan.  When a person moves their body, various signals are sent from the brain to the muscles via nerves. The cobot reads these signals and assists the wearer’s movement.

PA, with the support of the LGA, worked with the Isle of Wight Council, to test the appetite for cobots amongst carers and care workers. The results were overwhelmingly positive, confounding some presumptions about the willingness of older people, in particular, to embrace new technology.

We are now at the cusp of some ground-breaking work with Hampshire to investigate if cobots could have a role to play in delivering care by testing it with a small group of care providers, care workers and service users.  If the answer turns out to be yes and we make no assumptions at this stage – we could drive towards a pragmatic, commercially viable solution.

Watch this space!

To see a live demo of this Cobot technology and to find out more about our trial work, come to our plenary session at ITEC2019 Conference on Wednesday 16th October on Main stage at 10:25am