The last three days I was at the first German AAL Congress at Berlin and presented (together with my colleague Christophe Kunze) our results in the area of context-aware technologies for ambient assisted living. This encompassed intelligent sensor systems for detecting activities and other vital parameters, our ontology-centered design methodology as well as our AAL ontology from our work in SOPRANO. I had some interesting discussions with a lot of interesting people 😉
The congress had 330 participants on the first two days alone (and they had to close registration early in January) Demographic change was the stereotypical motivation slide… And the dominating discussion theme of the German-speaking part was the lack of business models, which was seen as a main cause for the lack of market take-up. Closer inspection revealed that the majority of problems probably is due to regulatory conditions, especially in the area of health and care insurance. This is supposed to change with the new financial system of the health insurance in Germany, starting 2009 where a lot of interesting things are expected to happen. Let’s see if this helps to reduce barriers.
The European day was dominated by the new Joint AAL Programme under Article 169, which is supposed to introduce a new funding programme that is aimed at more short-term projects (2-3 years time-to-market). The first call will be published end of March/beginning of April. Available funding does not appear to be extremely high – so the call will probably be highly competetive. Expected consortia are about the size of FP7 STREPs. The proposals will be evaluated centrally (at an European level), however, the funding contracts will be made with the national authorities. Although it was claimed that the funding regulations are making it easier to participate, especially for SMEs, because of the national funding agencies, I believe this introduces additional complexity (while FP7 rules are – also for SMEs – quite simple if they have some consulting on it). The national authorities have budget limits so that situations may arise where a consortium is recommended for funding while the national funding agency does not have any money left… Probably, also with decentralized reporting, you will generate additional overhead.
The emerging AAL community appears to be an interesting mix of various disciplines with surprisingly concrete visions and a challenging field for applied research where technology can achieve much – but only if it is embedded in a holistic solution.