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IBM Works With UCL to Tackle Loneliness Through Digital Technologies

David Paul


GDPR Scottish Care

COVID-19 has highlighted the need for the elderly to have contact with others as they are left alone during the pandemic lockdown.

Tech giant IBM is partnering with the University College London (UCL) on the IBM Industry Exchange Network (IBM IXN) programme, which allows students to tackle loneliness and other real-world problems using artificial intelligence, IoT and virtual reality (VR).

Data released by researchers at IBM while we isolate has revealed that 43% of the elderly population feel lonely at least some of the time, which will impact personal, economic, and societal wellbeing.

The company is partnering with UCL to look at how technology can help combat the issue with a series of programmes designed to help people at home stay connected. Loneliness and isolation have been linked to early death, and during the COVID-19 lockdown, more people will be left alone for an indeterminate amount of time until it is lifted.

A spokesman from UCL wrote in FE News: “UCL’s Industry Exchange Network (UCL IXN) and IBM have collaborated to create the IBM Industry Exchange Network (IBM IXN).

“This international educational collaboration will develop a new experimental program that enables students in the UK and beyond to work on proof of concept research and development projects utilising IBM technologies such as IBM Cloud, IoT, and AI with real-world organisations and clients.”

One UCL IXN proof of concept uses IBM Watson Assistant and Watson Speech to create a customised, immersive social experience to help the users, such as the elderly, feel less isolated.

The concept runs on a range of devices from entry-level iOS and android tablets to Oculus VR systems and allows isolated users to create a room where they can connect, play and talk to their family and friends without having to physically interact or move locations.

Commenting on the collaboration, Dr Dean Mohamedally principal teaching fellow for software engineering and industry projects at UCL, said: “Being able to offer our students as much as we possibly can, beyond academic learning, is our top priority.

“From an industry perspective, this new IBM programme will enable students to develop the next generation of prototypes supporting their interoperability, efficiency and innovation streams with IBM technologies and partnerships.

“The students will gain by using technology that helps to shape and develop their innovation, creativity and inspiration in problem-solving for real user needs. We are incredibly excited to be working with IBM to help equip our students with the skills they need to go on to change the world around them. We hope to see many students publish their work through this programme.”


With the digital skills gap set to grow to 500,000 in 2020, IBM IXN will provide a way for the tech industry to innovate rapidly and for students to learn industry-relevant skills through the expertise of UCL and IBM.

Naguib Attia, Vice-President, Global University Programs, IBM, commented: “Closing the gap on the technology skills shortage is one of the most important issues of our time. We need to ensure students are fully equipped with the right technical and professional skills to participate and flourish in this digital economy.

“Through this new collaboration, we will work closely with UCL to ensure curricula aligns with industry needs and trends, and ensure students are equally prepared for life and a career beyond their degree.”

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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