GPS satellite location equipment tested live by Argyll

Following his recent attendance at the Scottish Tele-Healthcare summit, held within Aldourie Castle in Inverness and hosted by Highlands & the Islands Enterprise, Tom Morton, CEO of Argyll realised that whilst there was a clear appetite within clinicians and care providers for the exploration and possible adoption of new mobile technology to improve and extend the quality and levels of care being delivered to service users, there was no real appetite for the risks associated in trialling such equipment.

Consequently Morton decided to conduct a trial himself by travelling the length of the new Hadrians Wall National Trail that runs from Wallsend in North Tyneside and Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria, a distance of approximately 84 miles and that follows the original path of the Roman wall built between AD100 and AD160 through city streets, suburban residential areas, small rural villages and the open countryside.

Morton (46) was accompanied on the trip by Michael Johnson (60), a long-standing family friend. The duo set off at 2pm on Friday 6 August with an aim to complete the trail within four days.

A Smartcare GPS device, containing a mobile phone, global positioning system (GPS), fall detection sensor and an SOS button to summons assistance placed inside each of their rucksacks. Both devices were linked to a 24/7 monitoring facility to handle any alarms raised. In order to test the mobile phone coverage, one device was connected to O2 and the other to Orange/Everywhere.

Both devices were configured to use GPS to trace positions over a maximum of 16 hours each day between 0600 and 2200 hours and to plot their exact positions at intervals of 10 minutes. Individual device ‘wake up’ times were also staggered to commence their reporting five minutes apart. Position reports were displayed, via the internet, on a familiar Google map where friends, family and colleagues were able to visit the Argyll company website and view the intrepid duo’s progress.

Information included their current location, prior historical movements leading up to that point and their current speed and direction of travel. The site also enabled viewers to send messages of support (and comfort!) to their personal mobile phone using a combination of Twitter and SMS text messaging. Fundamentally this also served to reassure family by confirming that they had arrived safely at their planned overnight accommodation.

Following the trial, Morton said: “I am clearly a huge advocate for the use of mobile technology within a healthcare setting and I wanted to prove that this type of technology can be utilised as part of the package of support and care that will enable people suffering from falls or with long-term chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s to live more independent lifestyles.

“One of the barriers levied against deployment of this technology is the potential harm that any technical failure, associated with the adoption of any new technologies, could cause to both service user confidence and clinical reputation. I do hope that in completing this coast to coast trial, I have successfully tested, demonstrated and proven the resilience of the technology within and behind the Smartcare and that this will build confidence within clinicians and service users to assuage those initial fears.”

He added: “This was a hard and demanding trek but our spirits were continuously lifted along the way as we met some fascinating people. Those worth particular mention include Sammy, Angie and Kev plus Scooby the Jack Russell (who didn’t care much for Michaels day-glo rucksack cover) who had just walked the Antonine Wall and were dressed in Roman Centurion and full army combat gear and collecting cash in tins for ‘Help For Heroes’; Paul Cocoran an ex-Army veteran raising profile for the Rifles charity for those injured in Afghanistan and who was carrying everything including the kitchen sink (literally!) plus the most senior coast-to-coast walkers (on this trip) 86 years old ex-Navy Jed and his friend ex-builder Brian, both representing the ‘Idle Working Mens Club’ near Bradford.