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Georgia Tech launches HomeLab to help companies evaluate home health technologies

Baby boomers have witnessed many technological innovations, and they expect technology to provide them with solutions to help maintain their independence for as long as possible. They are outfitting their homes with products to help them live healthy lifestyles, manage chronic conditions, remember to take medications and remain connected with their caregivers.

To help companies evaluate baby boomers' perceptions, use and acceptance of home health and wellness technologies, the Georgia Institute of Technology has launched HomeLab. HomeLab is a statewide network of adults 50 years of age and older recruited to evaluate the in-home usability and effectiveness of consumer products designed for the aging adult population.

HomeLab currently consists of 100 homes distributed throughout the state of Georgia; the network is expected to grow to 150 homes later this year and 550 homes by 2014.

"My wife and I are in generally good health and are interested in assisting homebound citizens by evaluating new innovations for their independent living. We want to be part of the solution for this excellent challenge," said Ivan Cottrell. Cottrell signed up to be a HomeLab participant with his wife, Judy, who was a home health nurse in Florida and witnessed many seniors struggling to stay in their own homes.

The HomeLab infrastructure lessens the burden for companies that need to find participants 50 years of age and older for extended in-home product testing. Because Georgia Tech collects detailed information about each HomeLab participant's health and home up front, individuals can be rapidly recruited for targeted short- and long-term product testing.

"HomeLab provides an efficient means for companies to limit the cost of extensive user testing that is required to bring a product to market," said Brad Fain, director of HomeLab and a principal research scientist in the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). "Evaluation of a pre-market or mature technology by Georgia Tech's HomeLab will provide a company with documented evidence for marketing, regulatory compliance and product design."

GTRI has a history of helping companies evaluate and improve the design of consumer products and currently serves as the independent product testing organization for the U.S. Arthritis Foundation, the Arthritis Society of Canada and Arthritis Australia. If a product passes GTRI's rigorous ease-of-use testing, the company that created the product can use the arthritis organization's logo in its advertisements and on its packaging.

For this work, GTRI recruits users to test a variety of consumer products -- medicine bottles, beverage containers, office supplies, medical devices, vehicles and cell phones -- in its Accessibility Evaluation Facility for at most a few hours.

With the launch of HomeLab, GTRI will expand its product testing program to include extended in-home product evaluations, which will range from one month to one year in duration and involve 25 to 125 participants who are compensated for their time. HomeLab will provide companies with product design support, early product testing, and formal usability and effectiveness evaluations.

"It is important that companies obtain consumer feedback on products as early as possible in the design process and HomeLab can facilitate an early connection with target populations to evaluate design concepts or early prototypes," noted Fain.


Contact: Abby Robinson
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News

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