ICT4 Elderly/Smart tools and assistants

Contents of the module

  • Voice assistants, voice recognition;
  • Wearables;
  • Smart Home devices;
  • Robots (Roomba Vacuum cleaner, Pepper Robot etc.) as a way to overcome physical difficulties;
  • Usage possibilities, convenience, dependencies, risks.

Learning objectives

  • Age-appropriate assistance solutions;
  • Enhance the understanding of how the technology works;
  • Awareness of different application areas (Healthcare, Safety, Comfort, Access…);
  • Identify use cases for elderly people.

Learning outcomes

  • Capable to introduce into the topic “IoT for seniors” (AAL);
  • Familiar how to use IoT devices and assistive technologies;
  • Understand the benefits and “dependencies” from assistant technologies;
  • Able to identify personally suitable use cases.

Learning scenario

  • Introduction to functionalities of Smart tools and intelligent personal assistants;
  • Using voice assistant device for practical tasks;
  • Raising awareness about the security issues and data privacy when using smart tools and intelligent personal assistants.


  • Video or/and slideshow presentation;
  • Engaging tasks;
  • Discussion about opportunities, challenges and risks.

Following this module learners will:

  • Raise awareness among their peers;
  • Be capable to present and discuss different possibilities regarding digital smart tools and assistants;
  • Give an overview of existing technologies and future trends.

Introduction of the training Edit

The distribution and functionality of Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPA) / Voice Assistant Devices (VA), such as Apple's Siri, Amazon’s Echo (Alexa) or the Google Assistant, as well as suitable Internet of Things (IoT) applications continue to grow. They offer great potential especially for older people: Networked household appliances and sensors could help them to stay longer in their homes. The attractiveness of these devices is a result of their simple operation. Internet searches, online orders, room monitoring and other smart home services can be carried out by calling in natural language. Users, however, are still not aware of the implications of speech-based interaction, especially since today's speech assistants are in part just better remote controls and the device only provides voice feedback on some of the features. In the future, however, these should not only process simple commands, but also enable natural and smooth interaction. In addition to technical improvements in speech recognition, this also requires improved speech comprehension and more intelligent dialogue. The intuitive operation and the varied opportunities sound very positive and meaningful, but there are still many risks of these new opportunities today. Where large amounts of data are continuous transmitted, there are always security breaches. Networking makes the things not only "smart", but also vulnerable. That is why security against cybercrime is crucial. In addition to new technical solutions, there are also legal and security aspects resulting from the spread of speech assistants and stricter data protection regulations. When and what is being listened in is often not clear and what happens with the voice data the user usually does not know. Companies should make transparent what data they collect and how they use it.

Intelligent personal assistants let us interact with computer systems in a more natural manner, have them autonomously analysing our interests and make suggestions on how to improve our lives. But IPAs are still only computers. We should not forget to ensure cybersecurity protection measures are in place. We should become aware of and organise the protection of our personal data and the possibilities and limits of the large service providers. Politicians and society must agree on new rules for key issues, otherwise the distribution of IPA and IoT applications will be delayed and associated with immense risks.

In this session, participants will learn how to interact with an IPA with their voice in natural language. They experience how the machine responds or reacts. It will be discussed what risks and challenges, e.g. security and privacy issues exist and what we can do to deal with it in a sovereign and secure way in the present and in the future.


Voice recognition, AI, IoT, Smart home, Cybercrime, Data protection, Privacy.

The purpose of the session will be:

  • to provide an overview of intelligent personal assistants and IoT applications
  • to experience concrete examples of these devices and applications
  • to facilitate participants to introduce other persons into IPA,VA and IoT
  • to reflect and discuss risks and fears as well as opportunities and benefits

Icebreacker / Energizer Edit

The session starts with an icebreaker or energizer using a voice assistant device (e.g. Alexa) for a breathing / meditation exercise or a “Stop Dance”.

Participants follow the instruction given by the IPA / VA. A breathing exercise, meditation or “stop dance” (Alexa Skill) on a voice assistant device is used activate the participants and to bring them into interaction with the computer.

Introduction Edit

The icebreaker is followed by a group discussion. The participants report where and how they have already used intelligent personal assistants (IPA) / voice assistants (VA) and if they already use smart home (IoT) devices.

The participants are asked to talk about their opinion and experiences with using VAs and IoT. What kind of apps do you use? What are your experiences? This is important to establish a learning field where both trainer and participants come together to share experiences, knowledge and ideas. After this initial debate the trainer briefly summarises the contributions and introduces the objectives and the structure of the sessions.

Input Edit

After this initial debate, the trainer presents different types of devices and varied possibilities to use these tools. The trainer emphasises for which person / target groups these offers are suitable The Trainer also gives input on the functionality and explains the human-machine interaction and the concept of Voice User Interfaces (VUI) in comparison to Graphic User Interface (GUI). Virtual assistants use natural language processing (NLP) to match user text or voice input to executable commands. Many artificial intelligence techniques are required, including deep machine learning. In a third section of the input the trainer addresses issues of security and data privacy. Problems regarding massive data collection, behavioral analysis, surveillance, recommendation bubbles, cybercrime, manipulation etc. are highlighted.

Videos, live demonstrations and / or a slide presentation can be used for this purpose.

Application areas and types of VAs Edit

The trainer presents application areas for IPAs and VAs and gives examples for illustration: VA devices (Amazon Echo, Google Home, …) Smartphones and Tablets (Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana, Bixby) Cars, TV … IoT: Wearables and Smart Home Robots

Functionality: GUI vs. VUI Edit

Voice recognition and comprehension, Cloud Services, deep machine learning (AI) are explained

Security issues and Data privacy Edit

Massive data collection, surveillance, behaviour analysis, recommendation bubbles, cybercrime, manipulation are highlighted and illustrated by examples:

  • Unintentional / unauthorized ordering of goods
  • Surveillance
  • Hacking of home control devices
  • Attacks on IT-Networks (DDOS)
  • Misuse of personal data
  • Loss of self-determination

Exercise Edit

The input by the trainer will be followed by a group activity where participants give advices or ask questions to a voice assistant. All participants come together in a circle. In the middle is a voice assistant device (amazon echo, google home etc.) Each participant is given a sheet of paper with an advice or a question in advance. One after another asks his question or gives his instruction until it was everyone's turn. The participants then only briefly name the thematic field in which they would classify the requested service. The trainer supports the groups by providing information and help.

After the VA has responded or reacted participants from the group briefly name the thematic field in which they would classify the requested service. One after another asks his question or gives his instruction until it was everyone's turn. Example: “Call Peter!” - Communication “Tell a joke!”, “Sing a song!” - Entertainment “Turn on the light” – Home Control

Thematic fields can be: Information Communication Organisation Navigation Shopping Security Well-being Health Entertainment Home Control

Discussion Edit

After this exercise it will be discussed how helpful or beneficial digital and virtual instruments are and how they might change our near future.

What opportunities do digital technologies offer for different people?

What are challenges and risks? A deterrent point is the mass of personal data collected and made available to several strangers and institutions.

Participants are encouraged to express their questions, doubts, ideas and feelings toward the topics discussed. The discussion is led by the question, how do they assess the potential and limitations of digital and virtual instruments for themselves and for other target groups like elderly and people with limited mobility?

The trainer will wrap-up the session with a debriefing moment.

Participants are encouraged to express their questions, doubts, ideas and feelings about the topics introduced. The discussion is led by the question, how participants assess the potential, limitations and risks of IPA, VA and connected Devices (IoT) for themselves and for other target groups. The trainer can promote a dynamic exchange by asking some of these questions: What do you think - will VUI and IoT widely be spread in our society? When? For which person / target groups the offers are suitable? How do you feel about your personal data is collected in masses and made available to several strangers and institutions? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_assistant_privacy

Homework Edit

Debriefing Edit

Evaluation Edit

Overall duration of the session Edit

1 hour and 10 min

References Edit