A total of 32 tenders were submitted in the international call for tenders that ended in June; seven of them were selected for the first phase of the pre-commercial procurement process. The goal of the call for tenders was to find technology suitable for the home environment, which supports both the elderly themselves and their care-givers and family members. The elderly can live more independently in their own homes if they are supported whenever needed for example in eating meals, moving about or personal hygiene.
A special characteristic of pre-commercial procurement is that it is used to purchase research and development work instead of a ready product. A total of 2,150,000 Euros have been budgeted for the three-phase procurement process of the SILVER project. Procurers in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Holland and Great Britain carry out the joint procurement.
Two phases in assessing the tenders
The tenders were assessed by external assessors, who were experts in either robotics, elderly care or business economics. Each of them rated the tenders based on the common assessment criteria and the Technology Strategy Board coordinating the procurement process calculated the overall points of each offered solution.
The proposals, which passed the first assessment round advanced to the handling of an international decision panel, which convened in London in July 2013. With the decision panel’s unanimous decision, seven solutions were selected to get to the next phase; the procurers present also approved them with their common decision.
Seven solutions advance in the process
The seven selected solutions proceeded to phase 1 of the pre-commercial procurement process after signing the agreement. All the selected solutions encourage the elderly to be independent and in this way maintain both their physical and psychological ability to operate.
The following proposals proceeded to the first phase of the pre-commercial procurement:
Helping Hand follows passively user’s movements and “freezes” (becomes a stiff support) in unstable situations. This intelligent robot arm offers help for those who develop difficulties in moving with daily tasks.
Mealtime is an eating assistive device. It is a platform that integrates all aspects of a mealtime situation, and helps with eating, drinking and hygiene. It is also a medication reminder and can facilitate communication between, for example, homecare and food delivery company.
Iron Arm is a light and ergonomic soft robotics device with intention detection sensors and mechatronic actuators that can be used to support personal activities. It also collects data on elderly people’s physical activities.
Legorob is a novel care robot that provides physical as well as social support for the elderly people while preserving their privacy and personal space. It can move around, is capable of information acquisition and sensing, and has an arm with an under actuated gripper able to grasp objects.
Wearable Bionic Exoskeleton. With a wearable bionic exoskeletons the ambulation function can be restored, and the elderly can keep walking and moving without a wheelchair. The exoskeletons will be optimised for people with diseases like Parkinson’s or stroke.
Kompai-Robosoft develops an assistive robot to help assistance professionals in elderly care. The robot is ‘personalised’ for the elder persons health and type and degree of dependence. It provides cognitive assistance and has a medication management carousel. Modules, such as walking aid, can be easily added.
Dextrous Mobile Manipulator is an assistobot combined with a ‘smart’ table, called RITA. The table is in fact a mobile sensor platform that can navigate and monitor clients in a non-invasive manner. The monitoring is used to provide 24/7 safety and behavioural analysis. RITA can carry items and it can be used, for example, for finding a pair of missing glasses.
The pre-commercial procurement process of the SILVER project will last roughly three years. The purpose of the first phase of the procurement process is to demonstrate the feasibility of the solutions and in the second phase the most promising product ideas are developed into prototypes, which are tested in lab demonstration that correspond to reality. In the third phase, the best solutions are tested in real-life conditions in the countries participating in the SILVER project.