Ouay: A smart speaker connects patients directly to their loved ones

Today there is a large group of new systems for helping the old or handicapped live on their own. These advancements are often persuaded by the dual objectives of improving patients’ lives and minimizing expenses. What’s more, recent technological progressions, for example, in sensors and alert systems are supporting this pattern.

But, two students at EPFL found that there was one key element missing, based on their personal experience with elderly people.

They think that there is the requirement of a reliable device that patients can use to easily communicate with people outside the home.

The students- Sven Borden, a first-year Master’s student in microengineering at EPFL, and Loïc Rochat, a student in mechanical engineering- come up with a smart speaker called ‘Ouay’ with voice-activation technology that connects patients directly to their loved ones as well as caregivers and emergency services.

By providing a constant connection, the system allows elderly patients to remain independent while at the same time reassuring everyone involved that help is never far away. It has already been tested by several organizations that provide home-care services to the elderly.

Borden and Rochat collaborated with other students from EPFL, HEC, and HE-ARC, and then spoke with local caregivers and patients in order to pinpoint their needs.

Ouay has a number of useful features including alerts for taking medication, reminders for doctor’s appointments and messages that can reassure someone feeling anxious. These features work through the mobile telephone network.

Borden said, “I think Ouay is a good reflection of the entrepreneurial spirit we have here at EPFL.”

Students initially set up an association to build up their network and pool their funds. Since this initial investment, Ouay has expanded its reach considerably; the student team received an XGrant (financial support that EPFL provides to student startups) as well as a CHF 20,000 FIT Digital grant from Vaud’s Foundation for Technological Innovation (FIT). The proceeds were used to create the prototypes that are currently being tested by home-care providers.

Jean-Luc Tuma, who heads up the local home-care group Uniquecare santé et soins à domicile said, “It’s an excellent way to help patients live autonomously, independently and safely. The most remarkable thing we’ve done so far is having a hypnotherapist use the device to help a patient fall asleep through remote hypnosis.”


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