Universal Design, Internet of Caring Things and Cognitive Computing
What do these three concepts have in common? A lot! They came together during the Universal Design Today conference where I was a keynote speaker this past week. The conference was held in my hometown of Charleston, WV and was co-organized with CreateWV. While not my typical crowd, this was an engaging conference with a passionate set of attendees. Please check out the conference program to learn more about my co-presenters.
Wikipedia defines universal design as a broad-spectrum idea meant to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to older people, people without disabilities, and people with disabilities.
What is your home’s visitability?
The conference opened with a discussion titled “Dirty Little Secrets Builders Don’t Want You to Know” regarding the challenges of convincing home owners to prioritize universal design in their home improvement project. The recommendation was to talk about enabling friends and family who are differently-abled to visit — increasing the home’s “visitability”. The fact that some homes cannot be retrofitted was also discussed. For example, my home’s front entrance requires climbing 22 steps (the back entrance is a mere 10 steps). My house lacks visitability! Adding a shower with universal design features on the 2nd floor would be nice, but it isn’t going to fix the primary access issue. Additionally, we discussed discrimination by design and how individual homes discriminate, but also entire neighborhoods when they lack sidewalks and other amenities that can connect people.
Prioritizing Broadband in Rural and Small Cities
While the majority of the conference attendees and presenters were speaking about physical spaces, I was challenged with bringing a digital point of view. The first opportunity I had to do this was in the plenary panel “Our Future “in” Rural and Small Cities” where we discussed our views on the opportunities, challenges and priorities of these communities. My focus was on extending internet access (broadband). The lack of reliable internet access for these communities is stifling their ability to access broader services, to be aware of creative solutions to their problems, and their ability to access training. Broadband also makes it possible for remote work and will provide the incentive needed for people to settle in these wonderful communities.
Internet of Caring Things and Taking on New Collars
In the future session I presented a quick talk on the Internet of Caring Things (a term coined by Susann Keohane, Sr. Technologist, IBM, and Nicola Palmarini, Technology Advocate, IBM Research — @skeohane1 and @IBMAccess). Similar to typical IOT, Caring Things leverage the use of cognitive technologies. In addition Caring Things personalized and connect individuals to relevant content and interests.
In the talk I introduced a set of qualities that the Internet of Caring Things should aspire to convey (initially inspired by this list):
- Commitment — Available, reliable, strong values and purpose
- Conscientious — Considers privacy issues, ethics and represents individual’s concerns
- Competent — knowledgeable about what we expect them to know
- Compassionate — Friendly, shows caring
- Confident — Empowering people, enabling freedom
- Context — Understands the current situation (e.g. when it is OK to interrupt)
- Content — Provides relevant information and is engaging
- Connected — Provides access to people (with similar interests, right professionals
- Cognitive — Uses knowledge to solve problems, is a helper, personalized, smart and usable
I urged the audience to take on new collar work (@ibmibv) and encouraged those around them to begin learning about cognitive computing to harness the power and to lead in the creation of the Internet of Caring Things.
Welcome to the Era of Cognitive Computing
My keynote was focused on demystifying artificial intelligence (AI) and explaining the basics of machine learning. With only a handful of people in the room who had studied computer science, this was a new topic for the majority of the audience. I referenced the IBM video — Solutions for An Aging Population which focuses on a project in Bolzano, Italy, where IBM’s Smarter Cities team partnered with the city to help monitor a portion of their elder community to provide better service.
Again, I encouraged the audience to learn about these tools, and to not fear them. By partnering with others they can begin building tools to help their communities and create jobs that will keep people in the rural and small cities.
There were many more topics discussed and I encourage you to keep an eye on the Universal Design Today conference site as the proceedings are shared.