Living Labs are a counter model to traditional laboratories. In Living Labs, products and innovations are tested in real-life environments.
The concept of Living Labs is relatively new, dating back to the beginning of the 21st century. There is no clear definition of the term «Living Labs», and various Living Lab concepts exist. The Institute for Ageing Research IAF defines a Living Lab as a «living laboratory» in the sense of an experiential space. It links independent private households in a networked structure for testing technical assistance systems and services.
Long-term tests in real-life settings
In the past, technical assistance systems and innovations from the field of Active & Assisted Living (AAL) have mainly been tested in conventional and artificially created laboratory settings, and only for a short period of time. The Living Lab approach, on the other hand, focuses on long-term testing in real-life contexts. The private households form a living lab in the sense of a shared experiential space. The elderly participate in the different phases of product or service development (from the development of the idea to the development of the prototype) and in the actual test.
The focus of IAF living labs is on private households and end users in the 60+ age group. Participating households are equipped with a technological innovation from the AAL (Active & Assisted Living) sector. During the pilot phase, the IAF team provides scientific support for the testing of technological assistance systems or services. The end user, who tests these systems in the long term in his or her everyday life and private living environment, forms the core of this approach.
More autonomy, better quality of life
The target groups of Living Labs are older adults aged 60+, their relatives and people who deal with the older adults in their work. For these three target groups, there are three goals:
- to maintain the autonomy and independence of older adults for as long as possible
- to provide the nursing staff and care-giving relatives with the best possible support
- to increase and improve the safety and quality of life of those affected
The Living Lab concept provides the appropriate framework for the IAF to test and develop innovations from the AAL area in a user-centred and participatory manner and to thereby ensure a high level of acceptance for new technological products.