PAT system helps homeless people keep their appointments


November 26, 2012

A Raspberry Pi microprocessor, which serves as the heart of the PAT base station

A Raspberry Pi microprocessor, which serves as the heart of the PAT base station

Homeless people face a multitude of challenges daily, which can make keeping even important appointments very difficult. A new project, dubbed the “Personal Appointment Ticketing service” (or PAT), hopes to make this easier with a new inexpensive method of printing out personalized appointment cards.

The PAT system consists of an internet-connected base station which is powered by a Raspberry Pi computer and contains a small thermal printer. When presented with a plastic wristband, which is unique to each person and contains an RFID tag, the base station connects to an online database to glean the relevant schedule information, then prints out a personalized reminder.

The reminder may consist of a message like “Remember doctor's appointment Wednesday, 1.30 pm,” for example. Further base stations could be placed at key places like homeless shelters or aid agencies.

“We hope this tool will help people make more appointments because they have access to a different type of reminder system, and lead to improvement in quality of life," said medical biologist Dr Rod Dillon, who is leading Patchworks.

The PAT project was developed during an 8-month research project led by Lancaster University and the MadLab hacking collective as part of a project named Patchworks, which seeks to explore the health and communication needs of homeless people in the surrounding area.

Patchworks itself belongs to a larger scheme called Catalyst, a £1.9 million (roughly US$3 million) venture funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPRSC), which brings communities and academics together, with the aim of creating tools for social change.

PAT will be launched November 28 at The Midland Hotel, Morecambe, at which time people will be able to hear more about the project and see the prototype in action.

The video below details the project further.

Source: Catalyst

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

Do you have to be homeless to use this system?

Laura Ward

Do you have to be homeless to use this system?

can a homeless really able to afford this expensive gizmo?

Jimbo Jim

Was this really the best excuse you could come up with the tag homeless people with RFID chips? Cuz, y'know, if there's anything homeless people have a lot of, it's lots of pressing appointments. Look, I know Americans are pretty dumb, but...c'mon.

John Camilli

Raspberry Pi is a 'microcomputer' and not a 'microprocessor'. Also You could do something like this with an APC (Android PC) or an Ardunio.

Ervin Kosch
First photo is weird: the board is NOT a Raspberry Pi (nor a microcontroller) and in the back you can see some labels from Arduino`s envelopes

2.-I don´t think this is the main concern for a homeless (medical appointment or food ?? )

3.- looks that a homeless don`t have the money or need to buy this, but a NGO or some other agency could pay for it (again, better than pay for shelter or food? )


Market this as a useful device for those with Alzeimers (mild or acute) and it may allow it to become more affordable due to volume sales. Countries that provide its citizens with health care for free, may also find it useful.

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