Independent Assisted Living Conference, Stirling, Scotland Oct 2009

Dr Kevin Doughty, an advisor for Centre for Usable Home technology, was the main speaker with an excellent presentation and good solid reasons why there has to be some radical thinking around the services the industry provides.

Dr Stephen Brewster, University of Glasgow, gave an excellent overview of their MATCH Project which is looking at different (quite radical) ways of communicating with computers using ‘earcons, tactons and aromacons’. Brilliant far-reaching stuff.

Unfortunately it went downhill from there on in, with ‘The Man From The Ministry’, Brian Kerr, telling us in no uncertain terms that we were in the risk business and then presenting the 10 or so government bodies and certifications we would need to pass before we could even consider selling product to the ‘institutions’. Ideal motivation for SMEs! David Kelly, the retiring MD of Tunstall who chaired the question session asked if this was why they (Tunstall) were only allowed to sell 40-year-old solutions…at last an admission in public. The answer was a shrug.

When it was suggested by a member of the audience at question time, that ‘it would seem that the only way to make changes in your departments, would require some form of nuclear explosion’, the reply was also a shrug.

One of the consultant speakers, Lynn Blair, pointed out that an aircraft carrier takes a couple of hours to change course (not quite true), so we need to be patient. I wondered which government body she works for!

Best of all was Graham Worsley of the Technology Strategy (Strategy?) Board who has a £50m budget which he wants to squander spend on one really big UK-wide trial of some sort, to be determined. No doubt backing the highly mobile and innovative aircraft carriers such as BT and IBM to develop products and services in this space. At question time it was suggested that such large, well entrenched organisations are about as innovative as Tunstall and that perhaps he should reconsider and use smaller, agile motor torpedo boats (the SMEs) who will adapt their products quickly to address the users’ problems and not try to adapt the users to their products.

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