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Amazon visit Norfolk County Council to show how Alexa could keep people independent

PUBLISHED: 16:24 14 March 2018 | UPDATED: 16:24 14 March 2018

An Amazon Echo Dot. Norfolk County Council is exploring whether the devices, often referred to as Alexa, could help with adult social care. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

An Amazon Echo Dot. Norfolk County Council is exploring whether the devices, often referred to as Alexa, could help with adult social care. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

The ways in which gadgets could help keep people in Norfolk independent in their homes is being explored by council bosses, who welcomed Amazon to County Hall to outline how their technologies could be used.

James Bullion, director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council. Picture Norfolk County CouncilJames Bullion, director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council. Picture Norfolk County Council

A major shift in social care is pending, with Norfolk County Council needing to save millions of pounds over the next four years.

James Bullion, director of adult social care at the council, said last year that the technology could have a part to play in keeping people independent and Amazon last week visited County Hall to demonstrate what devices such as their Echo can do.

The Amazon Echo carries out commands when users activate it by saying the 
name ‘Alexa’. The device is linked to WiFi and users 
can ask Alexa to answer questions, play music, order shopping, turn on lights 
or thermostats.

It can also give reminders about when to take medication or send out alerts and emails in the case of a fall, while sensors could monitor people’s movements in their home.

The council is spending about £1m a day on adult social care and the number of people aged 65 and over is due to increase from 209,700 in 2015 
to 274,800 in 2030.

The adult social care department needs to make £27m of savings in the year ahead and is looking to focus on keeping people independent in their own homes, rather than in residential care.

And the developments in assistive technology could help the council cope with the combined drivers of increased demand and reducing budget.

In a report which came before councillors, officers said: “Traditional assistive technology was expensive to buy and maintain and was 
very hard to integrate with other systems.

“The new wave of technologies are much cheaper, easier to integrate and combine with other systems and equipment, easier to deploy, maintain and can be connected in a variety of ways.

“Much of the technology that will be installed is now low in cost and aimed at 
the public to install and maintain themselves.

“Information management and technology staff have already been testing out a variety of Amazon echo devices, linked to sensors 
and connected devices in 
their own homes, initial 
results are very encouraging 
in terms of effectiveness and ease of use.”

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