AgeBots - Service Robots in Care for the Elderly

Assessment of Risks in Data Protection

As our society is facing demographic change and the number of skilled workers in the care sector is constantly decreasing, retirement and nursing homes will have to cope with major challenges. Against this background, the question arises whether and to what extent these challenges can be met by using service robots. At the same time, however, the use of service robots in the care for and nursing of the elderly leads to social, technological, economic and legal issues. Within the framework of a broad and interdisciplinary research project we therefore examine possible fields of application for robots which provide efficient and high-quality elderly care and nursing. Our approach is user-centered (by applying human-centered design) and we are aiming at developing workable service offers that are economical and at the same time compliant with the existing legal framework.

From a legal perspective, the interaction between service robots and residents of retirement and nursing homes raises liability and data protection law issues. With regard to data protection law, voice and facial recognition are crucial for an efficient use of the robots. However, such personal data is considered sensitive. The same applies to health data that may have to be processed. When the residents consent to such processing, problems may arise as some of them might not be capable of making an informed decision. For these reasons data protection considerations need to be considered from the very beginning of the project (privacy by design).

The Center for Life Sciences Law (ZLSR), headed by Prof. Dr. Alfred Früh, is responsible for the research on the above mentioned aspects of data protection law. The project is funded by Innosuisse (Swiss Innovation Agency) and managed by the Swiss Institute for Entrepreneurship (SIFE) of the University of Applied Sciences of the Grisons (Fachhochschule Graubünden, FHGR). Numerous interdisciplinary research partners as well as various implementation partners cooperate in this project. In addition to the SIFE FHGR research partners include the Institute for Ageing Research (Institut für Altersforschung, IAF) and the Institute for the Development of Mechatronic Systems, EMS (Institut für Entwicklung Mechatronischer Systeme)  - both are institutes of the Eastern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences (OST) and the Research Center for Information Law of the University of St. Gallen (HSG) (Forschungsstelle für Informationsrecht, FIR). The project is implemented by F&P Robotics AG and the Genossenschaft Wohnen im Alter (Haus VIVA).