A P2P platform supporting virtual communities to assist independent living of senior citizens

Project Objectives

PeerAssist can form the basis for developing a wide number of applications including (but not limited to): (i) peer-driven organization of social activities (such as going out, going to the movies, exchanging books, organizing a social gathering, etc.); (ii) soliciting peer help with housekeeping and other daily activities; (iii) allowing support organizations to "push" relevant content to interested elderly users; (iii) allowing caregivers, facilitators and family members to receive alerts if certain expected home activities of the elderly people are interrupted; (iv) responding to emergency situations that may ask for immediate action.

More specifically, the specific objectives of the project are:

  1. Design and develop an intuitive user interface that will be open, flexible and multilingual, following a "design-for-all" approach and taking into account possible minor or severe disabilities of the end-user. The user interface will be adaptable, supporting full customization, and will allow the selection among different modalities and the integration of various input/output devices, according to the specific abilities and preferences of an elderly user. The advanced possibilities of the user interface (UI) will be demonstrated in the project using: a) a TV set (to which most elderly people are well accustomed to) with various remote controls or other pointing and selection devices, b) a touch display and c) a speech only user interface. Through a simple dialogue design of the interface the user may elaborate on his/her profile and express a specific request to the system according to his/her desires or needs (user intent) at the specific time, which are captured in a semantic representation (query). Based on the profile and the previous usage of the specific user, PeerAssist will build a context sensitive dynamic user model which is continuously updated.
  2. Design and implement the PeerAssist end-user device. The system functionality for each peer is incorporated into the PeerAssist device, which is implemented, for demonstration purposes in this project, in a specific end-user device. It is not required that the elderly citizen is familiar with a computer to use the PeerAssist platform. Each user will be represented in the system not only through the user profile, but also by an intelligent entity referred to as personal assistant (PA). A PA will help users without any experience with ICT technologies to perform activities e.g., communication with friends, ordering services etc. The end-user device will process the request, based on the user profile and the user modelling and the environmental parameters that constitute the related space and time context, and form a machine understandable representation that is communicated to the network. The PA may also act autonomously on the user's behalf in cases of perceived emergencies.
  3. Design, develop and implement artificial intelligence methods for matching expressed queries to peer context. The roles, preferences and user profiles are modelled using ontologies that are aligned and matched using machine learning algorithms. Ontologies in the PeerAssist context are not seen just as a static representation of domain knowledge, but rather as the means to represent and process (match, update, cluster, etc.) "islands of meaning" in a changing distributed world. Moreover, the PeerAssist system will provide security services, such as authentication, confidentiality, integrity, anonymity and accountability by incorporating trust management, reputation models, security protocols, and privacy enhancing technologies.
  4. Design and implement a peer-to-peer (P2P) communication platform that will exploit the system's intelligence to provide connectivity at the network level optimized to efficiently serve the objectives of the system. The P2P platform enables peers to build efficiently virtual communities based on matched interests. Using this platform a query travels through the network searching for matching peers in the framework of PeerAssist. When this occurs the matched user is informed of the request and a virtual peer group (community) can be formed dynamically. A similar sequence of events is followed when a support organization wants to "push" a service or content that should be received only by the elderly peers interested in it.
  5. Finally, the expected outcome of the project is an open end-to-end platform prototype to support the interaction between elderly people sharing common interests, as well as between the elderly people and their support environment (e.g., caregivers, care-providers, facilitators, social workers and organizations, etc.) that: (a) provides an adaptable, multimodal user interface customizable to the elderly user needs; (b) captures end-user intent in an intuitive manner and represents it in machine understandable for, and (c) provides a P2P mechanism for building a virtual community based on captured user intent and semantic matching.