Calling all innovators: it’s time Industry 4.0 revolutionized dementia care. 

We are living in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Innovations including the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are being successfully rolled out en masse, aiding organizations in industries as diverse as agriculture to aviation. 

In the medical world particularly, lives are being made easier and even saved thanks to the technological innovation brought about by Industry 4.0. With the help of state-of-the-art manufacturing technology during the pandemic, safe and effective vaccines – which often take decades to develop – were unveiled in less than a year. 

There are, however areas in healthcare that are still yet to benefit. Dementia – a condition that devastates the lives of 50 million people worldwide by causing people to lose not just their memories but relationships and identity too – is one of those areas. 

Currently, the overwhelming focus of existing technology relating to dementia is designed for carers to monitor people – and while they are valuable tools, they have not been designed to help people living with dementia to continue to live as they had always done before their diagnosis. 

These ‘technology-enabled care’ (TEC) products include telecare and remote monitoring devices (pendant alarms or sensors around the home to monitor activity), telehealth devices (to track symptoms or medication adherence) and GPS tracking devices to prevent people from getting lost when out and about. We believe that there is a missing piece of the puzzle – a clear need for better technologies that an individual with dementia can themselves be in control of, whilst still being designed for the complex social settings that many people live in. 

The Longitude Prize on Dementia – a multi-million-pound prize launched by the Alzheimer’s Society and Innovate UK – aims to capitalize on and tap into the best of breed innovators that Industry 4.0 has to offer, to bring continued joy and purpose to those living with dementia. Our shared ambition is that the prize will drive the creation of new easy-to-use tools that people living with the early stages of dementia can use to help them retain their independence for longer and continue to do the things that make life fulfilling. 

Opening for entries in September 2022, global innovators from diverse disciplines are invited to apply their expertise and develop technologies that learn about the lives and routines of people living with early-stage dementia, employing assistive technology and machine learning to adapt to their needs and help bridge the cognitive gaps that develop as their condition progresses. 

This is the second Longitude Prize delivered by Challenge Works after the Longitude Prize on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) which is incentivizing novel diagnostic tests to tackle the scourge of superbugs. 

The Longitude Prize on Dementia is a £4.1m prize. It will award £3.1 million in seed funding and grants to the most promising innovators – with 20 semi-finalists receiving £80,000 Discover Awards early next year, and five finalists receiving £300,000 development grants in August 2024. Finally a £1 million prize will be awarded to one winner in early 2026. 

In addition, wider support will provide successful innovators with crucial insight and expertise, facilitating what they need to bring their ideas to life. This could include access to data, collaborations with people with dementia, and dementia organizations in the UK and around the world. Innovators are encouraged to enter solutions to the prize no matter their prior experience of creating solutions for people living with dementia. 

While we don’t prescribe what a winning solution might look like, we might expect to see the type of complex AI that sits behind platforms such as Spotify or Netflix applied to assistive tech. It could be used to learn about a user and then make recommendations, about what to buy from the shops, where an individual might want to go today, or who they might want to speak to and at what time. 

Another example could be ML-powered facial recognition technology that learns the non-verbal communicative methods of a person, so that if speech becomes progressively impaired, it could learn the new audio clues and pair them with leant visual cues from the user to complete requests. 

The Longitude Prize on Dementia is a global initiative. We look forward to welcoming innovators from around the world to get involved. In Canada we have partnered with AGE-WELL – the country’s leading technology and aging network. And in the USA, we’re supported by the AARP – an interest group of nearly 40 million members focusing on issues affecting those over the age of fifty. We’d welcome similar, likeminded organizations to reach out and get involved. 

Ultimately, challenge prizes support open innovation with a level playing field for established and previously untested innovators alike, enabling the most promising ideas to progress with funding and expert capacity building support. It is our hope that the Longitude Prize on Dementia will harness the technological potential of the 4th Industrial Revolution to support and benefit such a significant portion of the world’s population. 

We’re seeking the brightest and best to put forward their solutions that will support people with dementia to live joyful and independent lives – if you’re up for the challenge, apply to win the Longitude Prize on Dementia at 

Daniel Berman

Director of Global Health and Disability, Challenge Works.