In 2018, I spoke at a TEDx event, sharing my vision of how emerging space technologies hold the power to rebuild fractured community networks, to bring us together, and to support the most vulnerable groups of people in our society.
Since then, much has changed. Technology has advanced further in a way that enables us to be more connected, but yet research shows that more than twenty five million adults in England report feeling occasionally, sometimes or often lonely.
When we look at the most vulnerable groups in society, the data paints an equally concerning picture, with 43% of those in poor health or living with a long-term disability or illness reporting that they are often or always lonely.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a huge impact with remoteness now more prevalent in our communities due to lockdowns. However, the mass adoption of technologies such as video conferencing services has allowed us to connect with friends and relatives, whether they are down the road or the other side of the world.
Improving connectivity is key to supporting vulnerable people and combatting loneliness, and a system that is designed to be accessible for all promotes a better society for everyone. In building collaborations between researchers, service providers, solution developers and end users we have the best chance of creating fit for purpose, affordable applications.
Since 2018, the technology we have available has advanced significantly, with personal smart devices, wearable tech, and access to Wi-Fi now commonplace. This has given us access to each other and huge amounts of information wherever we are. Some examples of technologies that could be used to support vulnerable people in our society include:
More information on how satellite technology is supporting the health and wellbeing sector, including supporting long-term conditions and remote healthcare, please read our latest news and blogs on this topic.
The development and adoption of ubiquitous connectivity – the concept of having continuous signal without interruption – will benefit society in many ways. Whether elderly, living with a physical or mental illness or otherwise vulnerable to loneliness, technology can be tailored to make our lives easier; and many of these technologies rely on good connectivity to work.
These capabilities empower vulnerable people to make informed decisions, live more independently and promote a more integrated way of life; whether that is checking live bus times, viewing the weather forecast or connecting with family members and healthcare professionals over video chat. The need for a strong and continuous connection is not just for convenience. Vulnerable people, more than anyone, need to know that the services they are using will always be there no matter what.
The ability to use technology and data to make decisions could also decrease pressure on healthcare facilities by supporting self-management, and have environmental benefits by reducing travel or increasing confidence in using public transport.
In addressing the causes and potential solutions for combatting loneliness, we must also consider the wider effect that it can have on people. We know that certain groups of people are more susceptible to loneliness but also that loneliness can be a huge contributer to ongoing health concerns such as early mortality, heart disease and obesity. Therefore if we can work towards reducing the number of people suffering from loneliness we can hope to also reduce associated illnesses it can cause.
Supporting the most vulnerable in our societies has become top of the agenda for policymakers and voters. But there are still challenges we must overcome:
Vulnerability and loneliness can happen to anybody, and space technologies have the capabilities to drive innovations that can help. The onus is on all of us, including Government, local authorities, healthcare providers and communities to make these solutions happen.
If your organisation is looking to collaborate using space technology to solve real human problems and create a better society for everyone, get in touch with us on 01235 428 199 or email email@example.com.