Tag Archives: AI

The future is here – exploring the role of AI in the world of homecare

Dr Kerry Harman from Birkbeck’s School of Social Sciences and Ms Caroline Firmin and Ms Dominique Davies use this blog to reflect on a recent exhibition they attended entitled ‘AI: Who’s looking after me?

I’m a senior lecturer at Birkbeck with a particular interest in invisible labour and marginalised knowledges. My interest in this area has led me to collaborating with Ms. Caroline Firmin from Birkbeck, Ms. Dominique Davies from Birkbeck and researchers at the University of Manchester on a case study entitled ‘Reimagining Homecare’ which explores sensory ways of knowing care. Caroline and Dominique are both homecare worker-researchers, and the ‘Reimagining Homecare’ project is part of a larger three-year AHRC funded Care Aesthetics Research Exploration (CARE) project.  

In August, Dominique, Caroline and I attended an exhibition entitled AI: Who’s looking after me? We all found the exhibition extremely thought provoking, so much so that we all kept thinking about it for days after we’d visited. As Caroline rode home on the bus (it was a long trip) she pondered the question: ‘can AI play a part in homecare’? It wasn’t the first time she’d thought about AI and homecare as it has been a focus of discussion within the field of homecare. What follows is a combined critical and poetic response from the three of us: 

‘AI: who’s looking after me?’ – well one response to that question would be the 1.62 million people working in Adult Social Care in England (skillsforcare). Of this very significant number of workers, 82% are female, the average age is 45, 23% have black, Asian and minority ethnicity and 16% have a non-British nationality. Almost a quarter of the adult social care workforce are employed on zero-hours contracts. Did we hear from or see any of these workers in the exhibition? No, but their silence was deafening and reverberated in the photographs of interiors of outsourced AI worker’s homes in the Global South in ‘The future is here’. 

The future is here 

I’m an elderly person of a great age past my eighties and keeping the rest a secret. 

I’m bedridden I need help from carers to help me get washed dressed change my pad . 

Hoist me from bed to armchair. Give me my medication. Make my meals and drinks . 

Do my laundry and housework.  

My family do my shopping and see to bills . I do need quite a bit of support.  

Can AI give me that kind of support? Can AI greet me in the morning with a smile on its face ? Can it respond to my needs, does it know how I’m feeling?  

Will AI talk to me and tell me what is happening outside where I live? For example, what is the weather like outside today? Is there anything new going on? Did you see any neighbours?  

Does AI know when I need a doctor.  

Does it know my thoughts and feelings? How do you have a relationship with AI like I do with my carers and family? 

Can it sense moods? Can it sense changes?  

We rely on technology everyday, sometimes it’s frustrating. Mostly we adapt to technology, because we don’t have a choice.  

Can we do without technology?  We use our phones, laptops, bank cards on a daily basis but when these go wrong what happens?  

What if AI goes wrong? Who cares for me now?  

Does AI have a place or contribute to homecare? 

What is AI? what does it do?  

Many of us have heard of AI but I don’t think we fully understand what it means. How is AI made and who programmes them? What role do they play in our lives?  

Can they play a role in our lives better or worse than humans? 

Can AI be corrupted, can it be trustworthy? Would the person receiving care be comfortable with AI?   

Can AI help the blind, deaf, disabled, wheelchair users, mental health, dementia/ Alzheimer’s? How would the elderly understand communicating with AI? 

Is AI here to stay forever and replace human feelings, touches, senses?  

I think humans need human touches and human responses. I think it makes them feel more connected…. 

The future is here 

For me, ‘Who’s looking after me?’ spotlights the question of ‘what does it mean to be human’? Visiting the exhibition prompted me to read ‘The Inconvenience of Other People’ by Lauren Berlant. Berlant provides a detailed exploration of the impossibility of sovereignty and argues that politically we need to learn to work with the ambiguity that the fantasy of sovereignty creates. I contend that in many ways AI could be thought of as a human response to the human desire for sovereignty. In other words, because people are ‘inconvenient’ we seek to create a world where we can bypass them. Enter AI. However, as Caroline and Dominique both ask, can AI replace ‘care’? And even if it could, this raises a bigger question: if we humans are going to go to the trouble of teaching machines ‘to care’, why not invest in teaching humans to care more for each other and the world? Why do we want machines to do that? As Berlant maintains, people (and things) ARE inconvenient, but we need to move beyond the fantasy of sovereignty as we continue to bump into each other in this world. Creating machines that can ‘care’ will not address the fantasy of human sovereignty, it will only mean that we need to develop new ways of relating to things. While the possibilities generated by new types of relations and relating should not be foreclosed, the fantasy that this will lead to greater sovereignty needs to be abandoned. In other words, we need to learn better ways of getting along together.  

The future is here 

I feel like a robot – robotic, when I’m performing care.  

Perhaps the future is here?  

…so lots of questions as we continue in exploring care aesthetics and sensory ways of knowing care.  

More Information: 


What is data analytics and how can it help your business?

Paul Yoo smiling for the camera.

With the surge of data volume and processing requirements, the need to understand data analytics is ever-rising.

Dr Paul Yoo, Deputy Director of the Birkbeck Institute for Data Analytics, shares how businesses can harness big data to improve their services.

What is data analytics?

Data analytics is the process of using data to solve problems. It addresses challenges relating to converting unstructured, complex, large-scale data into useful and actionable information.

Data analytics tools help in the data analytics processes, from loading data to transformation, model optimisation and deployment. Data analytics uses various tools for the analysis of unstructured, complex data, including images, texts, and graphs.

How can businesses use data analytics to improve their performance?

Many industries are involved in business data analytics applications in areas such as marketing, revenue forecasting, manufacturing, fraud detection and more. Data analytics can answer questions that help businesses by measuring marketing and advertising metrics, identifying consumer behaviour and the target audience, and analysing market trends.

At the Birkbeck Institute for Data Analytics (BIDA), we have recently helped one of the largest semiconductor manufacturing companies in Asia in designing new sensors using advanced data analytic techniques for simultaneous fault detection in semiconductor wafer manufacturing. The current technologies for semiconductor manufacturing fault detection use the big raw data (streamed by over 40K sensors implanted around their fabrication processes). As the semiconductor wafers can only be validated after fab out (when the wafers are completed with processing) which usually takes about thirty days, there was a pressing need for a rapid fault diagnosis of the cause. The newly developed sensors using advanced data analytics techniques helped maintain high process yield while minimising tool downtime in semiconductor manufacturing.

Where can I learn more about data analytics?

BIDA offers free AI and data analytics training and engagement services for business. Our AI and data analytics clinic can help you to implement AI models and data analytic solutions specific to your industry, be it banking and finance, automotive, healthcare, or any other niche.

The clinic also provides ongoing opportunities to network, gain information and seek expert advice in areas of AI and data analytics. BIDA’s training portfolio actively targets industry players across a variety of sectors that would benefit from new insights gained using data analytics techniques.

Further Information


What’s the best way to raise funds for a startup?

Alexander Flint Mitchell, MSc Business Innovation with Entrepreneurship alumnus and founder of Blind Cupid shares his experience of raising capital for his business venture.

Picture of business man launching into the air.

Like most first-time entrepreneurs, Alexander was a total novice when it came to funding startups before setting up his own business.

Having now secured £175,000 to launch, with the prospect of completing fundraising over the next six weeks, he shares his experience of raising capital for a startup.

Angels and venture capital

When Alexander began fundraising for Blind Cupid, a matchmaking app that uses systematic philosophy and artificial intelligence to match users based on their fundamental values, he took a traditional route of approaching angels (high net worth individuals who provide financial backing for startups) and venture capital firms.

“We contacted many venture capital companies and had some very successful conversations with them,” explains Alexander. “These companies are usually specialists in a certain field and it’s common to be asked to deliver as many as five or six presentations to secure funding. While we would obviously spend some of this time talking about the business idea, the key thing to get right was the financial information.”

The downside of this method of fundraising? Time.

“Venture capital funders are demanding and even getting a response from them, never mind retaining their interest, requires a lot of time and effort,” explains Alexander. “There’s a lot of back and forth, often with your whole team needing to attend calls or presentations, which can feel never-ending when you’re in it.

“We also faced difficulties with our product not fitting neatly into a specialist area. The app we’re developing combines matchmaking with brand new artificial intelligence that has never been built before, and so there are no investors currently specialising in it. Given the amount of money that venture capital funds invest, it’s understandable that they would prefer to go with something tried and tested. We raised around half the funds we needed through this method, but I began to look for alternatives to speed things up.”

Gaining crowd appeal

Many different methods of fundraising are covered in the Entrepreneurial Venture Creation module taught at Birkbeck, among them crowdfunding.

Alexander admits to being sceptical to this approach: “I had the impression when I started that crowdfunding was on a smaller scale and more about conventional ideas than disruptive new businesses – I had no idea that companies do their series A and series B rounds on crowdfunding.”

While individual investment amounts can be much smaller, as little as £10, on crowdfunding sites, Alexander now sees this as an opportunity:

“Compared to venture capital, crowdfunding is a really quick and innovative way to finance startups,” he says. “The main difference is that our investors through crowdfunding are likely to also be our users, which is really exciting. Even if they only invest a tiny amount, they will benefit from a future IPO – it’s similar to holding shares in the stock market.”

The personal touch is also something that appeals to Alexander and the ethos of Blind Cupid:

“We aren’t just trying to match people together; we really want to make sure that these matches are accurate and that once you meet someone you will stay together. We’ve done it for 80% of our beta test users, and now we want to do it throughout the rest of the UK and world. It’s an unusual business concept in a way, because we don’t want people to come back – we want people to find the person that’s right for them.

“Our business model is very different from other players in this market because of this — and other reasons. We offer a premium service which gives our users access to podcasts, blogs and more written by experts that advise them on every aspect of their lives. Topics include how to discover who you really are, what self esteem is and how to build it, how to nurture a healthy relationship and more.”

Blind Cupid have now launched their crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube. For Alexander, it will be a relief to move to the next stage:

“When you’re looking for funding, it feels like it’s never-ending, but I know that when it’s complete I‘ll forget the months that it took. Many things in life are a learning curve and you find what suits you best. It’s great to finally see it all come to life.”

Further information