Rapid deployment of in-home connectivity for digitally excluded citizens


Newcastle City Council’s Reablement service supports adults who have experience a life change to live independently in their own homes.

Life changes may be a bereavement or hospital stay, with the Council working to improve the patient’s confidence to live independently.

The service had been working with the Council’s Innovation Partner, Urban Foresight, to trial digital assistive technologies to support individuals at risk of falls.

User research for this project identified that 46 per cent of current service users did not have an internet connection in their home.

Organising an internet connection can be a slow and expensive process, severely impacting the council’s ability to quickly respond to the needs of at risk, digitally excluded residents

The Reablement Service therefore recognised a need to find ways of providing digital assistive technologies to individuals that don’t have an existing internet connection. 

Solving the problem

The council and Urban Foresight engaged with local business Trench Networks to trial an innovative internet network connection solution.

Trench currently offers Wi-Fi solutions to construction sites, providing reliable, temporary internet connections for multiple devices without the need for any existing connectivity infrastructure.

Thanks to winning funding from the Innovation SuperNetwork’s challenge fund, Trench was able to develop a proof of concept connectivity product, called Outpost to support the delivery of in-home care services in light of Covid-19.

Trench worked with the Reablement Service to design a product that could be easily operated by elderly users. This included a simple on/off switch and making provision for more complex configuration and operation to be managed remotely. Prototypes were rapidly produced using 3D printing.

Trench also established a customer support function to react to any technical issues or user difficulties during the trial.

Key outcomes

In 2021, three individuals in the assistive technologies pilot were identified as being at risk of falls, but without an internet connection in their home.

A temporary connection was installed by Trench to support the Council’s deployment of an Amazon Echo Show device. This was used by the Reablement Service to remind patients to complete daily tasks, keep them active, entertained, and even in contact with friends and family who live apart from them.

This will improve their ability to live independently, improve their confidence in using digital technologies, and provide reassurance to their family members.

It was amazing to see how this project has leveraged our technology to deliver such tangible benefits to users and their families.”

Kevin Latimer, Trench Networks

The trial gave the council learning on how to quickly deploy internet connectivity in the homes of vulnerable, digitally excluded patients. It also provided a solution to support wider rollout of digital assistive technologies in the Reablement Service.

Trench Networks also gained valuable learning to further develop its domestic connectivity product to meet a range of in-home care requirements and the opportunity to diversify into this new market.

Thanks in part to their involvement in the trial, Trench secured a round of investment funding worth £500,000 from the North East Venture Fund. This will support the creation of five new jobs and continued development of the Outpost flexible connectivity unit.