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Explaining the operation of a home care system

Kenneth J. Turner (Professor of Computing Science, Computing Science and Mathematics, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK)

Journal of Assistive Technologies

ISSN: 1754-9450

Article publication date: 16 March 2015



The purpose of this paper is to devise a general solution that allows a policy-based (i.e. rule-based) management system to explain its operation. In particular, a solution has been developed and evaluated in the context of an automated home care system.


The work has built on an existing policy-based management system called Advanced Component Control Enhancing Network Technologies (ACCENT). This includes automated management of home care using two forms of rules: higher-level (user) goals and lower-level (system) policies. These rules can be defined by users (typically carers) to personalise how the system should support the resident. In new work, the system has been extended to include an explanation facility that allows the user to understand the past and future behaviour of the system.


An explanation facility has been created to explain the past and future behaviour of the system. An initial evaluation of this has been carried out with carers. The participants in this evaluation found the facility to be understandable and were able to use it effectively.

Research limitations/implications

The work has made a useful extension to the design of policy-based systems in general. The initial evaluation with a limited group of users identified small weaknesses in the explanation facility that will be addressed in future work. The updated approach will then be evaluated with a larger group of users.

Practical implications

The enhanced home care system is now more usable and comprehensible, and so will be easier to deploy and maintain.

Social implications

The explanation facility has made the home care system more usable and comprehensible for users, and so will enhance its acceptability in future deployment.


Although expert systems have long been able to explain their operation, this kind of solution has not previously been attempted for policy-based management systems. The value to end users is that the approach makes automated support of home care more understandable and thus more acceptable and usable.



The author is grateful to the participants who helped with the usability evaluation.


Turner, K.J. (2015), "Explaining the operation of a home care system", Journal of Assistive Technologies, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 21-37.



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