PA Consulting Uses Amazon Alexa to Help Hampshire County Council Improve Lives of Vulnerable Citizens

PA Consulting is an APN Advanced Consulting Partner with AWS Competencies in DevOps, Government, Public Safety, and Disaster Response

Using Technology to Enhance Delivery

Across the United Kingdom, there is a growing need for caregivers to help aging citizens who are living at home. With the number of care worker vacancies growing, along with a rise in the over-65 population in England, more people than ever require assistance in completing their daily tasks.

Hampshire County Council, which serves 1.3 million residents in Hampshire, England, wanted to take an innovative approach to address the problem. “We needed to improve service delivery, and we thought we could do that through new, consumer-based technologies,” says Mark Allen, Strategic Commissioning Manager for Adults’ Health and Care at Hampshire County Council. Specifically, the Council wanted to capitalize on the growing number of digital devices in homes. YouGov research, for example, showed that 6.6 million adults in the United Kingdom owned a smart speaker in the first quarter of 2018—double the number from the third quarter in 2017. “We wanted to see how we could use digital services to enhance care delivery and help people become more independent,” Allen says.

Giving Residents Voice-Activated Assistance

The Council chose PA Consulting (PA), an AWS Partner Network (APN) Advanced Consulting Partner and AWS Public Sector Partner, for assistance. PA had already been working with the Council on Argenti, a technology initiative. “We  had designed and developed solutions to provide technology-enabled care to the county’s most vulnerable adults,” says David Rees, Government and Public Sector Expert at PA.

PA built a solution based on the Amazon Echo digital device and Amazon Alexa, a cloud-based voice service. PA used the Amazon Lex service to build conversational interfaces into the Amazon Echo. “Amazon is an important part of our end-to-end innovation expertise, and the Amazon Echo in particular offers strong out-of-the-box capabilities including home integration,” says Rees. “Overall, many of our customers want to move to the cloud and digitize the services they provide, and AWS technology and our participation in the AWS Partner Network enable us to achieve that.”

“Overall, many of our customers want to move to the cloud and digitize the services they provide, and AWS technology and our participation in the AWS Partner Network enable us to achieve that.”

- David Rees, Government and Public Sector Expert at PA

PA created a proof of concept (POC), spending time with 50 vulnerable adults living at home to gain insights into the challenges they faced and what they wished they could accomplish. The PA team then tailored the Amazon Echo’s functionality to each person’s daily routine. This functionality includes tasks such as setting reminders for medication and calendar appointments for people with memory issues; turning on music, news, or the radio to combat social isolation; writing online shopping lists so caregivers can shop for those who are housebound; and activating smart lights and other smart devices.

PA put the connected devices, along with other Internet of Things (IoT) devices controllable by Alexa, into the homes of 50 people with care needs. To use the various functions, the people alerted their Echo device by saying “Alexa” and then giving a command. Each Amazon Echo unit was programmed to carry out the specific tasks without further input.

Improving the Lives of Vulnerable Adults

Vulnerable adults in Hampshire County have seen their lives improve as a result of the Amazon Echo POC, with 72 percent reporting the voice-activated assistant eased their daily routine. For instance, a woman who lacks the ability to walk or press buttons used the Amazon Echo to control her lights and television, giving her a new degree of independence.

In addition, a blind woman reliant on public transportation was able to use the Amazon Echo to access an up-to-date bus schedule. “People living with disabilities can do things they couldn’t previously because of the Amazon Echo and Amazon Alexa voice-assisted technology,” says Allen. 

"Our surveys showed that 62 percent of people felt less isolated after using the Amazon Echo, because they can communicate more effectively with caregivers outside the home."

- Tim Devine, Product Design and Engineering Expert at PA

Helping People Feel Less Isolated

The Amazon Echo POC also helped relieve feelings of isolation in people who are homebound. “Our surveys showed that 62 percent of people felt less isolated after using the Amazon Echo, because they can communicate more effectively with caregivers outside the home,” says Tim Devine, Product Design and Engineering Expert at PA.

With the initial POC completed, Hampshire County Council expects to roll the solution out to more people. Allen says, “We are excited to continue working with AWS and PA to continue enhancing this technology and empowering more people in their daily lives.”

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About Hampshire County Council

Hampshire County Council governs the majority of the county of Hampshire in England. It provides residents across the county a range of services including highway management, social care, waste disposal, and children’s services. It also maintains a group of parks and libraries.

About PA Consulting

PA Consulting (PA) is an innovation and transformation consultancy. With more than 3,200 experts, PA works globally across industries including consumer, defense and security, energy and utilities, financial services, government, health and life sciences, manufacturing, and transport, helping clients build a positive human future in a technology-driven world.

Published January 2020