Digital Telework for Remote Physical Work

Remote-operated robots to help protect long-term care home staff, residents.

Project Budget* - $9.0M

Partner Co-investment* - $5.0M

Supercluster Co-investment* - $4.0M

Project Partners

Project Overview

Working remotely has been a key tool in stopping the spread of COVID-19, but currently there is no technology that allows remote workers to participate in the economy to perform physical work. Performing physical work remotely would not only be an economic catalyst during a pandemic, but a critical safety measure for labor-intensive environments like hospitals and long-term care homes. Today, Canadian health care workers are three times more likely to contract COVID-19 than the general public. Long-term care facilities have had multiple cluster outbreaks and been the source of more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 fatalities in Canada.

The Digital Telework Infrastructure Project is working to test remotely operated robots in long-term care and clinical settings with the potential for other Canadian labor-intensive industries. The initiative expands the current capabilities of telework technology – currently limited to video and audio interactions – to make physical interactions​ possible by connecting remote workers to general purpose robots through secure LTE networks.

The project is led by Sanctuary AI, a world leader in robots and artificial intelligence (AI) control systems, in partnership with Rogers Communications, Microsoft, Expeto, the University of British Columbia, the Vancouver Economic Commission, Revera, AInBC, Alpine Services, Nurse Next Door, and Forcen Technologies.

In hospital settings, healthcare workers will trial a tele-robotic system to conduct portions of a physical exam. In long-term care homes the system will be used to measure vital signs and potentially manage the delivery of medications, aid in meal assistance, and score resident acuity.

The AI behind the system also has the potential to learn and automate parts of the care provided, making productivity increases possible for the professionals remotely operating the robots and addressing the systemic shortage of care workers in Canada. At scale, this solution has the potential to address the imbalance between caregivers and residents for Canada’s long-term senior care industry.

COVID-19 has caused a step function drop in the supply of human labour that is broad based across the entire global economy. The outcome of Digital Telework Infrastructure project will expand the capabilities of telework technology and lay the foundation of a new digital job infrastructure that can sustain productivity in times of health crises without subjecting workers to increased viral transmission risks for numerous Canadian industries.

*amounts at time of project selection

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