After three successful editions held in France (2003), Singapore (2004), and Canada (2005), ICOST2006, hosted in Belfast, aims to continue to develop an active research community dedicated to explore how Smart Homes and Health Telematics can foster independent living and offer an enhanced quality of life for ageing and disabled people.
As we begin to witness the effects of changing demographics on today's society we begin to appreciate that the increase in the number of elderly and in the prevalence of those suffering from chronic disease and disabilities are likely to further increase in the next 2–3 decades. To react to the needs of this cohort to provide an environment within which they can reside for as long as possible, whilst maintaining their quality of life and independence, is a widespread concern for all. As such, there is real benefit to further investigate the role of technologies to address these changes and subsequently offer practical solutions to support independent living. We feel that within the realms of Smart Homes and Health Telematics real, affordable and useful services can be developed which will have the necessary underlying technological and service delivery infrastructures to allow seamless integration into existing care delivery paradigms.
Each year, ICOST has a specific flavour. ICOST2003 focused on usability. The theme was “Independent living for persons with disabilities and elderly people”. The theme for ICOST2004 was “Towards a Human-Friendly Assistive Environment” and for ICOST2005 was “From Smart Homes to Smart Care”. This year the conference has the theme “Smart Homes and Beyond”. The introduction of technology can provide a positive impact, however, it is necessary to avoid any detrimental effects if reliance upon technology within the home environment becomes so great that people will not leave their own home in fear of losing the support once outside of the home, or its close proximity. ICOST2006 focuses on promoting personal autonomy and extending the quality of life by considering including smart services inside and outside of the home. Specifically, those participating were encouraged to consider topics addressing inclusive smart home services, situation awareness, location-based services and mobility of service delivery.
The Conference proceedings begins with the two Invited Papers by Stephen Intille and Toshiyo Tamura. These are then followed by 36 research papers to be delivered as oral presentations and a further 15 short papers to be delivered as poster presentations. The proceedings has been divided into 6 Chapters in an attempt to broadly categorise the wide spectrum of topics covered. Firstly, Chapter 1 focuses on Human–Computer Interaction and provides an insight into the latest developments of how systems can interact with and for people. Chapter 2 addresses a core topic for this event: Smart Homes and Healthcare. Papers in this Chapter report on the importance of technology as a healthcare facilitator and on the innovative ways that Smart Homes can be used to provide healthcare services. Context Awareness and Activity Monitoring is the theme for Chapter 3. This Chapter provides contributions which offer solutions to the problems of context characterization and activity identification, all distinctive behavioural features that Smart Home related systems are expected to exhibit. Chapter 4 details technological advances in the area of Sensors, Wearable Systems, Smart Devices and Robotics, all of which allow the environment to collect ambient information. This technology is fundamental to transform an environment into an active space that can be sensitive to situations of interest and to react sensibly when required. Next, Chapter 5 provides us with an insight into the recent developments in Smart Homes and Health Telematics relating to the core areas of Communications, Middleware and Privacy. Finally, Chapter 6 presents a series of short papers addressing a range of the aforementioned topics covered in Chapters 1–5.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank a number of people who have helped in making this conference a success. First of all we would wish to thank all of the authors for their excellent contributions. We would wish to thank the Scientific and Technical Committees for their support during the review process. In addition we would wish to thank the members of the Local Organising Committee for all of their efforts in the organising of the conference itself. In particular we would wish to recognise the efforts of Liam Burns and Steven Devlin who managed the conference website and also assisted with the production of the proceedings. We would like to express our gratitude for the following organisations who very kindly sponsored the event: University of Ulster, Innovation Relay Centre, Invest Northern Ireland, Centre for Competitiveness, Tynetec, UUTech, BioBusiness Ireland, British Telecom Northern Ireland/Ireland, DHSSPS-NI, Institut National des Telecommunications – Évry, France, Scientific Direction of GET, Groupe des Écoles des Télécommunications, France. Finally we wish to express our thanks to Prof. Mounir Mokhtari, Dr. Daqing Zhang, Dr. Sylvain Giroux, Prof. Zenn Bien and Prof. Sumi Helal for their invaluable guidance and support throughout the organisation of ICOST2006.
The ICOST community, although only in its fourth year of existence, is making substantial progress and indeed an impact for its end users. We hope that ICOST2006 will further extend these developments and create a forum whereby further needs and challenges can be openly discussed and addressed on an International and multidisciplinary level.
Thank you for joining us and we hope that you enjoy ICOST2006 and have a pleasant stay in Belfast.
Chris Nugent and Juan Carlos Augusto