The power of listening devices – and how to control your data

Just over half of households with internet access in the UK own a voice assistant – an Echo Dot or Google Hub for example – and there is evidence that this number will continue to increase. Listening devices can have a massive impact on improving independence, control and convenience in someone’s home, however there is reluctance amongst some to use them. As Care Technologists, we often hear people talking about how “Alexa is always listening to you” and “Google is recording all of your conversations”. So how much truth is there behind such ideas? And what are some of the things to consider around data privacy and voice assistants?

It is undeniable the convenience a voice assistant can provide. Being able to switch the lights and heating on and off with a simple voice command can have an incredibly positive impact on people who maybe struggle with their mobility. But it is also undeniable that in order to answer these voice commands, a voice assistant has to be able to listen to you. Sound unnerving? Don’t worry, there are ways to control how much is heard by your voice assistant.

Using an Echo listening device (Amazon)

With any Alexa device, there is the option to switch the microphone off completely with the mute button. Your Alexa device will light up red when the microphone is muted and this can be really useful  – even for smaller things, like if you are wanting to avoid any unwanted disruptions during a film. With devices that have a camera such as the Echo Show there is also the option to slide a cover over the camera, which is great if you have the drop-in function enabled but are not wanting anyone to see you at a particular time.

Using other listening devices

Furthermore, any voice assistant will make you aware if they are listening by lighting up or making a chime sound. Alexa for example will only listen to what you are saying when you say the default wake word “Alexa” – this is called keyword spotting. Think of it like a strainer; the Alexa device will allow the words you say to filter through until it hears “Alexa”, at which point it will activate its listening and recording capabilities.

If this isn’t enough, you can also ask Alexa to delete any voice recordings either from a certain time frame, or the entire time you have owned the device. This can be done by asking your Alexa device directly using your voice, online or through the Alexa app. With the Google assistant, you can ask it to enter ‘guest mode’ which means interaction will not be saved at any time, protecting your privacy even further.

Data collection

What about data collection and voice assistants? For a lot of people this has become an increasingly important issue and something that is often at the front of people’s minds, especially when it comes to smart technology – and understandably so. In the summer of 2021, Amazon received a £636m fine from the European Union due to collecting customers’ data unlawfully (Amazon hit with $886m fine for alleged data law breach – BBC News). So to say that companies like Amazon are collecting data for purely benevolent reasons to improve their customers’ experience would be naïve. However, companies like Amazon are so regularly in the limelight that as consumers, we know at least that their procedures and data processes are scrutinised carefully and regularly. This is why we sometimes still use their technology over others that may not receive such frequent review.

On the flip side of this, data collection isn’t all bad- it’s important for the functioning of voice assistants, particularly when it comes to learning and responding to the Scottish accent! By collecting data like the sound of your voice and how you might pronounce certain words, it means that it devices are able to adapt to how you speak and provide you with a more accurate service.

Ultimately we believe that there is a huge benefit to everyday living by using virtual assistants. In order to utilise a voice assistant and for it to work well, our data being collected is going to play a part in that. Whether it is to have a more personalised product, or for our voices to be more easily recognised, it is a decision we have to make when considering using voice assistants. The benefits of voice assistants that we as Care Technologist have seen for those in receipt of care ultimately outweighs concerns around privacy.

Formal publication of the Data Strategy – November 2022

Formal publication of the Data Strategy for Health and Social Care Analysis of Consultation Responses, Submitted Consultation Responses and We Asked You Said We Did.

Digital approaches to health and care and the data that drives it has been vital to how we’ve continued to deliver services and offers opportunities to support our plans for remobilisation. As part of the refreshed Digital Health and Care Strategy the Scottish Government are committed to publishing Scotland’s first ever Data Strategy.

The Digital Health and Care directorate have, and continue to, undertake a broad range of engagement with stakeholders and the public to support the development the Data Strategy. You can find a summary of their findings to date here:

The Data Strategy for Health and Social Care Analysis of Consultation Responses has been published and can now be viewed on

Also the responses submitted to the Data Strategy for Health and Social Care consultation have been published on Citizen Space along with the We Asked, You Said, We Did

Professional Development Award – Technology Enabled Care

NHS Education for Scotland have announced that funding is available for the Professional Development Award in Technology Enabled Care. This is delivered in partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands, Perth College.

The Professional Development Award (PDA) in Technology Enabled Care at SCQF level 7 aims to equip Scotland’s workforce with the knowledge and skills required to embed Technology Enabled Care into health and social care practice while supporting positive health and wellbeing outcomes for people.

Applications will close on Thursday 24 November 2022, 5:00 pm.

Please see flyer below for more information.

Care Technologist Phase 3 Pilot

Scottish Care are trialling a new Care Technologist role in care at home and care home settings in a 12 month, TEC funded Test of Change.

Following a successful 6-month trial with SRS Specialist Resource Solutions in Aberdeen, the Care Technologist project is extending to 2 further geographical areas – East Ayrshire and Glasgow, and the scope now includes Care Homes and Daycare services.

This Homecare Day 2022, we will be hosting a digital drop-in session for anyone interested to know more about the project and meet the Care Technologists, Katherine Long, Dan Plant and Cheryl Stevenson. This will take place online, 2pm – 3pm on Thursday 22nd September.

‘Join our first Digital Drop-in session here’

We are currently working with Baillieston Community Care, HRM Homecare, SRS Specialist Resource Solutions and care homes represented by Scottish Care to trial the role.

David Reilly, CEO of Baillieston Community Care said: 

“We are absolutely delighted to be taking part in the Care Technologist Project with Scottish Care, and having a Care Technologist working within our organisation. We see technology playing such an important role in the future of Social Care, supporting our workforce and ensuring the best possible outcomes for the people we support. We look forward to the year ahead and seeing the impact that this project will have on the people we support, their families and our staff.”

Lynn Laughland, Managing Director of HRM Homecare Services said:

“At HRM Homecare Services, we are enthusiastic about bringing the role of a Care Technologist into our business and being part of this project with Scottish Care. Digitalisation is important to the growth of the Care Sector, and the benefits of technology can help to support people who access care by ensuring their needs are nurtured through the implementation of appropriate technologies. We are excited and encouraged by the role of Care Technologist and believe this is the right step forward for the Scottish Social Care Sector.”

For more information about the role, our strategy and how we are helping people to live well, you can read more about the Care Technologist below.

If you would like to stay up to date with the progress of the project, you can sign up to receive updates via email or drop-in to one of our online sessions which take place monthly. You can opt-in to either of these by getting in touch below.

Katherine (Care Technologist Lead and care home delivery): [email protected]

Workshop invitation and survey – using algorithmic and AI tools in health and social care

The growing use of algorithms and AI tools to support delivery of care – for example, risk assessment tools, monitoring tools, and tools to support capacity management –  has implications for learning and workforce development at all levels. Scotland’s Digital Health and Care Strategy sets out an objective to “equip our staff with the ability to understand and interrogate data-driven recommendations and decision support tools, including those powered by Artificial Intelligence.”

DHI Scotland and NHS Scotland are now offering two opportunities for you to contribute your perspective on these learning and workforce development needs. They would really appreciate hearing your views by:

  1. Completing this short (10-15 minutes) Questionnaire survey
  2. Joining the virtual workshop “Using AI and algorithms with confidence”  11.00 am – 1.00 pm on 23rd August.  This workshop brings together leaders in the field to share their expertise and insights. It is a great opportunity to learn from experts in the field and to contribute your perspective on developing the workforce to realise the full benefits of these tools. The workshop programme is available below and you can register here using this booking form.
Workshop invitation using AI and algorithms learning needs

Telecare Small Grant Opportunity – Stakeholder Engagement

Small grant opportunity for Third and Independent Sector Organisations to carry out stakeholder engagement

The Telecare Team at Scottish Government’s Technology Enabled Care Programme are seeking the views of citizens who either use Telecare at the moment, or who might use it in the future.

They are inviting Third and Independent Sector Organisations to carry out some targeted stakeholder engagement in order to better understand the requirements of our community. The outcomes will be shared with telecare providers nationally to inform the development of services.

There are 20 grants of £1,500 available. The deadline for the applications is close of play on Friday 10 June 2022. Successful applicants will be notified by Friday 24 June 2022.

You can fill in this online form:

If you need the form in a different format you should contact Gillian Fyfe at [email protected]

Please see the briefing document below for more information.

Small Grant Opportunity for Third and Independent Sector Organisations - Funding Brief

Digital Learning in Scottish Health and Social Care – Survey

The Digitally Enabled Workforce team within NHS Education for Scotland (NES) are working to support the development of digital skills and confidence across Scotland’s health and social care workforce.  They want to make it easier to find and use online learning materials that will help build digital skills and improve confidence with technology.  To help us do this effectively the team want to hear from people working in health and care tp understand what is really needed. To find out more information about this piece of work please click here.

This survey is for everyone working in health and care in Scotland, whether you are very confident with digital technology, or completely new to it.  The information you provide will help shape how we support the digital and technology learning needs of the health and care workforce, so it is important to gather as wide a range of views as possible.

Please help by completing the survey yourself, and by sharing this link throughout your organisation, networks.

The survey is completely anonymous and will take about 10 minutes to complete on any device.

Click here to complete the survey.

You can also find a downloadable version of the survey here.

To find out more about the survey, and the research work we are doing, visit this information web page:

Data Strategy Engagement Session – 23 June

Call for engagement on the Data Strategy for Health and Social Care

In March, Scottish Care members participated in early engagement with the Data Strategy Team.  You can a summary of their findings to date here:

A follow up engagement session has been scheduled for 23rd June 1-2pm and we would encourage as many members as possible to attend and help shape this important area of policy.

Please register interest with [email protected]

Or contact Nicola Cooper, Technology and Digital Innovation Lead for further information [email protected]

Home Care Decisions App

Home Care Decisions App:  Your Opportunity to Lead the Way in Digital Innovation in Care Homes and Care at Home

Dear all

Scottish Care and the Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre (DHI) invite you to become an early adopter of the new Home Care Decisions App.

What is the Home Care Decisions App?

This app is provided freely to all care home and care at home services in Scotland, as part of the national decision support programme funded by Scottish Government. It is available via the app stores by searching for “Home Care Decisions” and on the web at

It delivers easy to use guidance and practical tools that improve safe, timely care and appropriate referral and escalation. The tools support care-workers in:

  • Delivering day to day care
  • Communicating in a shared language with the multi-professional team
  • Learning and personal development. 

The app offers two toolkits:

  • Care assessment and management– including Clinical Frailty Scale,  4AT tool for delirium screening, Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool, UTI assessment.
  • Palliative and end of life care

Care-workers strongly endorsed the app in the initial pilot, with 76-84% saying they were likely to use the toolkits in their day to day work.

What does being an early adopter involve?

Scottish Care, DHI, and colleagues in other early adopter sites will support you to embed this app in your service so that staff, service users and the wider healthcare team benefit from these evidence-based tools. We will help you to:

  • Put in place communication mechanisms to make sure all staff in your organization, including new recruits, know about the app and its benefits.
  • Define and implement processes and supporting technology to ensure that all staff who would benefit from the app have easy access to it in the work place.
  • Provide training, drawing upon national learning resources, to ensure that staff are confident in using the app.
  • Agree metrics and methods to evaluate impact of the app on practice and outcomes and take these measures over an agreed evaluation period.
  • Review evaluation results and agree improvements to the app and to the implementation process.

The learning you share as an early adopter will facilitate wider roll-out of the app in care homes and care at home services across Scotland.

To express interest in being an early adopter, please contact [email protected]

Home Care Decisions App flyer 19032022 v2

Health and Care Leadership Programme – Cohort 18 Recruitment

NHS Education for Scotland (NES) are currently recruiting for Cohort 18 of the Digital Health and Care Leadership Programme (DLP). Deadline for applications is Friday 1st July 2022.

There are lots of opportunities to learn more about the programme

  • There will be a session with past participants who will be sharing their experiences of the programme on Thursday 26th May 13:30-14:30, please register here.
  • Informal Q&A sessions for anyone wishing to find out more about the programme and ask any questions they may have. To book a place on a session, please register here.
  • Application guidance can be found on the Turas Programme Page.

NES are able to offer feedback on early applications before these are sent for review by the selection panel.

Applications are welcome from employees within NHS Scotland, social care, housing and the third sector who are leading a team, service or digital transformation within their organisation. Multidisciplinary team applications would also be welcome from those working collaboratively on the same project.

Any queries should be directed to [email protected].