Vitalise-Project / Thomas More Experience lab

Thomas More Experience lab

About the Living Lab: LiCalab – Living and Care lab

Overview
  • Year of Establishment: 2012
  • City of Turnhout & Thomas More Kempen vzw
  • Geel & Turnhout, Belgium
  • Governance: Research group within Thomas More University of Applied Sciences
  • Type of Living Lab
    • Living Lab as a Service (Company, SME/StartUp/Government, Research Institutes)
    • Research Living Lab (Collective Research)
    • Living Testbed (Technology Testing)
Online Presence
Story

LiCalab was founded in 2012 out of the development plans for a new city area in the city of Turnhout, where innovations in Healthcare and Living are introduced in the daily living conditions of the citizens. The Living Lab is located in Geel and Turnhout, Belgium within the Thomas More University of Applied Sciences. LiCalab started as a collaborative network organisation between the Thomas More University of Applied Sciences, the City of Turnhout, the Flemish Chamber of Commerce and a Welfare umbrella organisation of 27 local communities. LiCalab is a member of ENOLL since 2012 and fully incorporated in the Thomas More University of Applied Sciences as a research group focused on user research and Living Lab research in general since 2019.

The Living Lab focuses on the Health and Wellbeing sector and more specifically on care technology for prevention, patient rehabilitation, assisted living, active and healthy aging and new collaboration models and processes within the care sector. LiCalab conducts user research and supports businesses and organisations by including end users (citizens, elderly, patients, care professionals) from the very beginning of the development process until market introduction. Human centred design is the key methodology used through all processes and LiCalab acts as a key link in the innovation chain, facilitating co-creation, prototype testing and real life testing. In LiCalab the needs of external partners (companies, organisations, research institutes) are translated into tailor made projects throughout the development of innovative products and/or services, also connecting with international partners and Living Labs inside and outside Europe. The main mission is to make sure that innovations for Healthcare and Wellbeing are better fit to the needs and context of real end users and care professionals.

Challenges

LiCalab uses co-creation techniques to explore and validate (new) products, services, systems and business models within specific areas of focus. A close collaboration between all stakeholders in the Health and Wellbeing sector is crucial in this process and LiCalab facilitates this collaboration and brings the necessary actors together to explore innovations from external organisations. To achieve this, LiCalab relies on an own panel database of +1500 members and a broad network of local, regional and EU partners with expertise in Healthcare and Wellbeing, including end user organisations, local governments, care­givers, research institutes, SMEs and multinationals. The Living Lab works with these stakeholders in regional and European projects, as well as in private assignments.

Partnerships

Regarding partnerships, LiCalab is:

  • A member of ENOLL
  • A member of Ulabs EIT Health
  • A funding member of ‘Health & Care Network Kempen’
  • Coordinator of EIP-AHA Reference site ‘Health & Care Network Kempen’
  • A member of Flanders.Health cluster
  • Partner in many other projects.

Our most important partners are care organisations/care experts, patient organisations, elderly organisations, citizen representatives, informal carers (organisations), local and regional authorities, research institutes, Living Labs, care and wellbeing networks, companies/SMEs and their networks on a regional and international level. Within the framework of VITALISE project LiCalab closely collaborates with partner research group Mobilab & Care @Thomas More.

Goals & Vision

LiCalab strives to be a reference living lab with focus on care technology and new organisation models within (health)care by conducting evidence based user research with impact. This is achieved by maintaining and expanding the community of panel members and network partners, continuously training, validating and enhancing methodologies, skills and expertise, collaborating on different levels with different type of stakeholders within the sector (local, regional, international), measuring the impact on the customers, partners, panel of end users and society and communicating the results.

Key Personnel

Ing. Marc Mertens (male) – Researcher Mobilab & Care: Marc Mertens is a senior researcher at Mobilab & Care. He has a Master of Science in electronics and has worked for 20 years in Research & Development in consumer electronics. He also followed courses in “Relationship and Communication Sciences” and psychology. His main research area is detecting behavioural changes in human patterns and predicting fall risks using sensors, AI, machine learning and data mining. His recent research projects focus on fall risk assessment in psychiatric hospitals, behavioural monitoring and e-Mental health.

 Ing. Romy Sels (female) – Researcher Mobilab & Care: Romy holds a Bachelor’s degree in Physiotherapy from PHL university college and a Master’s degree in Engineering from KHK university college. Romy is a researcher at Mobilab since 2012. Romy conducts practice-oriented research in the areas of prevention, physical rehabilitation and e-mental health (with a specific focus on wearables). Her main tasks are drafting study protocols, writing applications for the ethics approval, conducting clinical studies, doing movement analysis, writing software and exploring new rehabilitation technology.

Dr ing. Bert Bonroy (male) – Researcher Mobilab & Care: Bert holds a PhD in Engineering Technology from KU Leuven on developing and evaluating assistive technology to improve chronic care and a Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering from KHK university college. Since 2006, Bert has been working as a researcher at Thomas More.  Within the research group Mobilab & Care he is research leader. Bert has experience in setting up and carrying out research projects at national and international level in which technology and care go hand in hand. He has a special focus on wearable technology that can be used in healthcare. For example, how new sensors integrated into clothing can contribute to a rehabilitation programme. In terms of research, he is mainly interested in the implementation of technology and algorithm development in the healthcare sector with the aim of increasing the patient’s quality of life and supporting the caregiver (from professional caregiver to family caregiver).

Infrastructure

Thomas More Experience lab is a flexible simulated living and care environment for single elderly people (both healthy subjects and patients, including rehabilitants) which allows for research and testing of technology in a controlled environment. It is ideal to test settings before they are launched at a residential setting. The experience lab has an equipped living room, kitchen and bedroom with sensors to monitor behaviour and self-reliance in a residential setting, i.e.:

  • Sensors for motion, proximity, time of flight, thermal grid, door contact, pressure, light, IR, VR, environmental, sleep, cameras, etc.
  • IoT, microprocessor and visualisation platforms
  • VR glasses
  • Wearable watches (Empatica, Fitbit Polar, Garmin)

Area(s) of Work

Area of Work: Health & Wellbeing, Artificial Intelligence

Subsections: Active and Healthy Ageing, Rehabilitation, mHealth, Lifestyle monitoring,

Staff Expertise

Physiotherapists, engineering experts, electronics experts and more.

Stakeholders Population

The following user groups are accessible to participate in research activities in Thomas More Experience lab:

  • Adult citizens
  • Elderly citizens
  • Caregivers (formal/informal)
  • Health organizations
  • Health Care Professionals
  • Patients (including rehabilitants)

Services

In Thomas More Experience lab, the following services are provided to researchers:

Networking and Capacity Building:  Capacity building; Panel management; Stakeholder (and partner) analysis and mapping.

Project planning and management: Intake and matching; Temporary research funding; Legal, regulation and safety standard support; Living lab project planning and management; Panel management.

Market and competitor intelligence services: Competitor and market analysis and benchmarking; Stakeholder (and partner) analysis and mapping. Planning to offer: Access to data.

Co-creation: Co-creation session; Expert opinion and advisory services; Stakeholder (and partner) analysis and mapping.

Testing and validation: Concept and proof-of-concept tests – concept feasibility study; Expert opinion, and advisory services; Idea selection and testing; Impact assessment and validation test; Large-scale real-life testing and piloting; Prototyping test; Simulation test; Small-scale real-life testing and experimentation; Usability testing.

Advisory Services: Expert opinion, and advisory services.

Visit our Living Lab Harmonisation Wiki Page for detailed descriptions of the Research & Development services that Living Labs offer.

Equipment

Activity Tracking/Monitoring (Body Positιon, Movement measurement, Orientation, Physical activity, Temperature, Sleep, Steps, Stress Level)

Assisting Technology (walking speed)

Biometrics (heart rate)

Biosignals (EEG, ECG)

Environment/context

  • Door operation
  • Technical alerts (Flood)
  • Technical alerts (Smoke)
  • Technical alerts (Temperature)
  • Indoor movements

Virtual reality/interactive technology

  • Alternative and augmentative Interaction (In rehabilitation context (e.g., virtual mirror therapy); VR for adults with intellectual disabilities; 360°video VR in nursing homes)
  • Intuitive user interface (In rehabilitation context (e.g., virtual mirror therapy); VR for adults with intellectual disabilities; 360°video VR in nursing homes)

Other: The experience lab has an equipped living room, kitchen and bedroom with sensors to monitor behaviour and self-reliance in a residential setting.

Visit our Living Lab Harmonisation Wiki Page for more details regarding Living Lab technologies and devices.

Use Cases based on Researchers’ Expertise

Researchers from the following domains have been identified as the most appropriate to apply for Transnational Access to Thomas More Experience lab (the list is non exhaustive):

Computer/Technology Scientists: Developing systems/tools/ technologies, testing and evaluating an ICT tool, prototype and real-life testing, computer vision & AI, Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality, Cybersecurity

Researchers with clinical expertise: (Doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, specialists, physiotherapists etc.), conducting research of healthcare services and practices, research on symptomatology or epidemiology of a disease, analysis of clinical effects of research performed in the study, e.g., via real life testing.

Experts in rehabilitation (physical, cognitive): Physiology, physiotherapy, occupational health research, rehabilitation and prevention. Cognitive diseases assistive technology, neuromuscular rehabilitation assistive technology

Data Scientists: Collecting, analysing and interpreting digital data, such as data analytics in healthcare and digital patient recordings (how patient information recording process is managed and utilized during the intervention by using digital tools in simulated situations)

Proposals of Interest

When it comes to researchers applying for Transnational Access to Thomas More Experience lab, priority will be given to the following topics:

  • Collaborations or extensions for Joint Research Activities: Studies that can be performed within or can extend the Belgian small scale study for JRA (Joint Research Activities) ‘Rehabilitation supported by technology’.
  • Studies related to m-Health/Wearables for lifestyle monitoring.
Operations

Previous Projects:

  • MotexThe international CORNET project ‘MOTEX’ stands for ‘MOnitoring TEXtiles’. In this project, both an intelligent knee brace and intelligent cycling shorts were developed. The intelligent wearable textile consists of a number of inductive sensors, a number of accelerometers and a processing unit that communicates via Bluetooth with a smartphone or tablet.
  • Immersive Care Enhancing care through virtual environments:
    • VR for rehabilitation (virtual mirror therapy)
    • VR for pediatrics
    • VR for adults with intellectual disabilities
    • 360°video VR in nursing homes

Running/Ongoing Projects:

  • PASSION-HF (Interreg NEW): Development of an integrated eHealth coach, enabling self-care of chronic heart failure patients including self-prescription of medication.