FEATURE BLOG POST: Smart Technologies for Work Environments in the focus of PETRA19

June 2019: Dr Otilia Kocsis, from the University of Patras, highlights how smart technologies in the workplace was a key focus at the recent PETRA Conference

Pervasive and assistive technologies have a long history now, with the main focus of researchers on designing and implementing systems and devices supporting independent living of elderly people in their homes. In the last decade a new area has started to gain ground, as people not only desire to live longer independently, but also maintain their active professional life for longer (e.g. retirement age has been extended to 65+ in the vast majority of European countries). In this context, this year’s edition of the Pervasive Technologies Related to Assistive Environments (PETRA) conference provided an excellent opportunity for the over 100 attendees to exchange ideas around the novel smart technologies at and for work.

Prof. Oliver Korn, from Offenburg University of Applied Sciences, Germany, set the stage from the beginning of the second day of the conference, with his keynote speech on “Assistive Systems at the Workplace: the past, the present – and the future”, highlighting the novel approaches targeting to actively guide and motivate workers, to support learning through production sequences, and to incorporate user states (e.g. task load, emotional cues) into personalized guidance.

For the rest of the day, two out of the 7 conference workshops, showcased to attendees a large variety of research in the field of smart technologies at the workplace. The 3rd DAEM Workshop  in the morning was dedicated to Designing Assistive Environments for Manufacturing, focusing on HCI concepts into industrial practice and industrial applications of Assistive Technology.

The SmartWork Workshop, in the afternoon, was dedicated to Smart, Personalized and Age-Friendly Working Environments, focusing on the use of novel pervasive and unobtrusive monitoring and personalized decision support and intervention at the work place to support older workers remain healthy, professionally active and productive for longer. The SmartWork project was represented and introduced to the attendees by myself and Prof. Nikos Fakotakis from University of Patras (Greece), Dr. João Quintas from Instituto Pedro Nunes (Portugal) and Flávia Rodrigues from Caritas Diocesana de Coimbra (Portugal), with a total of 5 project related papers being presented:

  • SmartWork: Designing a Smart Age-Friendly Living and Working Environment for Office Workers
  • Conceptual Architecture of a Multi-Dimensional Modeling Framework for Older Office Workers
  • Improving Face Recognition of Artificial Social Companions for Smart Working and Living Environments
  • Pervasive Technologies applied to the work environment: implications for end-users
  • Older Workers, Technology and The Balance of Power: An Ethical Review

The audience showed special interest in the SmartWork concept, proposed design considerations and ethical considerations, and pointed out that such research might also be relevant for younger office workers.

All workshop papers are included in the PETRA19 conference proceedings published by ACM.

We are looking forward to the next edition of the SmartWork workshop, as currently smart technologies in the work place are supporting older workers to remain professionally active, and new needs and approaches are emerging.

Keep up to date with SmartWork progress @SmartWorkEU and sign up to the Newsletter. Questions? Contact smartwork@echalliance.com