Using AI to Better Serve the Elderly
By using AI, the administering NGO would be able to use intelligent matching to find out who is the best helper for each task based on the helper’s talent, location and time availability.
Hong Kong is home to a large number of elderly people, many of whom need help for a variety of tasks. Together with his team, Professor Reynold Cheng of the Department of Computer Science has developed a new technology to match volunteer helpers with those who need elderly-care services.
Called ‘HINCare: A Heterogeneous Information Network for Elderly-Care Helper Recommendation’, the app uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology to match volunteer helpers with the people in need of services. The app is the first mobile app in the market that provides a network database for elders, volunteer helpers and NGOs, and it is designed for easy use by the elderly with features including a voiceover and large font size. Trusted family members can also log on.
The app is based on an intelligent time-banking system which operates in a similar way to a currency for the exchange of services. For example, the task of changing a light bulb may require one hour of a volunteer’s time and be worth one credit. By using AI, the administering NGO would be able to use intelligent matching to find out who is the best helper for each task based on the helper’s talent, location and time availability.
“We’re aiming to build a database with all the helpers’ information, then use AI technology to provide matching between volunteers and elders who need help,” Professor Cheng explained.
Before the app, records were input manually. Users needed to submit their notebooks to the NGO who then calculated the number of hours by hand. Now, the records are maintained on the cloud and NGOs can check the status instantly.
The system was developed based on face-to-face discussions with NGOs who intimately understand the needs of the elderly. The team also wanted to make the system useful for a whole range of NGOs that may require volunteer services, such as those supporting the needs of families. It can be used by all who have a similar need.
NGOs can also use the app to evaluate trends, such as which volunteers prefer to do which services and what activities the elderly like to take part in. This helps NGOs plan their resources more effectively and recruit more volunteers, which in turn helps build community capital, engaging more people to create a better community.
The software is currently used by two of the largest NGOs in Hong Kong – Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui (SKH) and Christian Family Service Centre (CFSC) serving over 1,000 elders and the team expects to serve about 5,000 in the future.
The platform has already been expanded for use as a platform for the exchange of craft goods made at home, which are exchanged in a big bazaar twice a year. The team plans to extend the range of uses further, including for volunteering services projects in various communities in need and NGOs planning for time bank implementation.
Professor Chun Kong Reynold Cheng of the Department of Computer Science received the Faculty Knowledge Exchange Award 2021 of the Faculty of Engineering for the project ‘HINCare: A Heterogeneous Information Network for Elderly-Care Helper Recommendation’.