The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) has broadened the definition of laboratory testing. Through soliciting everyday consumers as participants, HomeLab is now a formidable force, at 500-strong.
The HomeLab initiative expands Georgia Tech’s product evaluation capabilities in testing health, wellness, and aging-at-home technologies. HomeLab participants test and use these technologies in their homes, assisting manufacturers in design and usability and supporting the aging-in-place paradigm.
“Georgia Tech handles all of the recruitment, technology infrastructure, and protocol development associated with consumer testing so that companies can quickly react to the needs of the market and test new potential solutions as rapidly as possible,” said HomeLab Director Brad Fain.
GTRI Research Associate Renita Folds and the HomeLab team have worked to increase consumer participation in and around the metro Atlanta area.
“As of Nov. 18, we have more than 550 people in both rural and urban areas,” Folds said. “Our goal was to establish a network of 500 in the metro Atlanta area by the end of 2013, so we’re ahead of schedule.”
The secure database allows participants to be anonymously selected according to multiple data points, such as “living with arthritis” or “people with asthma.” Research partners set the parameters for testing, and HomeLab will provide the participants. Current projects include behavioral acceptance of activity monitors and gaming for health. Past projects include a packaging survey, remote health monitoring, smart mirror and voting accessibility survey.
HomeLab participants already are assisting in product evaluation, so 2014 will focus more on testing and boosting studies with current partners, while pushing the lab’s services to researchers, starting with faculty at Georgia Tech.
HomeLab is no longer actively recruiting any more partners from metro Atlanta, Folds said, but they are still hoping to expand, both in resources and in partnerships. “We will begin searching for participants in the Macon and Warner Robins area,” she said.
In November, HomeLab entered into a collaborative partnership agreement with Innovate LTC, located in Louisville, Ky., and the Institute for the Ages, located in Sarasota, Fla. The three organizations will share expertise and interest in a memorandum of understanding that highlights their complementary research missions.
In addition, the group is working to expand its industry partnerships, meeting with various organizations and groups. “We also recently met with a delegation representing French companies,” she said. The group was introduced to HomeLab at a Health Information Technology Showcase at Technology Square, on the Georgia Tech campus. “Additionally, other prospective partners have approached us.”
Added Fain: “HomeLab has built the necessary infrastructure that enables companies to focus on the things that truly matter such as measuring product effectiveness and performing research that will lead to solutions that enhances the lives of older adults.”
Georgia Tech Research Institute
Writer: Robert Nesmith