KITE scientists receive funding to investigate the ethical and societal impacts of smart home technology

Seed funding through University of Toronto and Zhejiang University Joint Seed program supports initiatives that work towards accomplishing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

KITE affiliate scientist, Charlene Chu, and KITE scientist, Shehroz Khan, have received a seed grant from University of Toronto (UofT) Global and Zhejiang University Joint Seed Fund for research that explores the ethical and societal challenges associated with using smart home technology to care for older adults. 

The KITE researchers are partnering with Dr. Junhong Zhu, associate professor, at the School of Medicine at Zhejiang University to complete this research.  

The grant funds initiatives that work towards accomplishing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This project is focused on good health and well-being as well as reducing inequities goals.

The group will receive $20,000 (CAD) from UofT and approximately equivalent in yuan from Zheijiang University over the course of two years. 

“[Khan] and I are thrilled to secure funding to start this meaningful partnership with another top university in the world,” Dr. Chu who is also an assistant professor at the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing at UofT.  “I think this new exciting collaboration speaks to the global and interdisciplinary nature of our work — which is very representative of KITE.” 

The trio will conduct a study to identify and compare what kind of smart home technologies are being used by adults who are 65 or older living at home in Canada and China. Concurrently, they will conduct a literature review to investigate the ethical issues that come with using these technologies. 

They decided to compare Canada and China because although both nations have aging populations, and access to smart home technology, they have vastly different cultures, politics, and attitudes towards elder care. 

Drs. Chu and Khan believe if they can create an ethical framework to inform the use of smart home technologies that can work for both countries it’s likely to have international applicability. 

 “Our long term goal is to create an ethical framework that can be applied to high, middle, and low income countries with different socio-political settings across the world,” Dr. Chu said.

Drs. Chu and Khan have been doing interdisciplinary research examining the use of smart home technology in older adults since 2019.  Dr. Zhu will visit Toronto this summer for a tour of KITE’s world-class Challenging Environment Assessment Laboratory (CEAL). Drs. Chu and Khan plan to visit Zheijiang University next summer.

 “I’m excited to have the opportunity to build this important relationship between our two institutions while investigating these complex issues that impact technology and aging-in-place,” Dr. Khan said.