Business Challenges and Technological Innovations Applied in the
ICT Platform for Occupational Activation of Senior Citizens
Wieslawa Gryncewicz, Robert Kutera and Artur Rot
Department of Information Systems, Wroclaw University of Economics, Komandorska 118/120, 53-345 Wroclaw, Poland
Keywords: Elderly People, Business Challenges, Technological Innovations, ICT Platform, Service E-marketplaces.
Abstract: One of the key challenges for the next several years is to face, especially in highly developed countries, the
problem of aging and its impact on the general quality of citizens’ life. Due to this trend, the Authors have
presented a concept of ICT platform aimed at increasing the activity of people at retirement age. It is
dedicated to members of local communities, can be used to support entrepreneurship, self-fulfilment and
activation in the field of independent social life. During the realization of the project, the Authors have
noticed the different business requirements of senior citizens. They were described in the article together
with respective technological innovations which were implemented in the ActGo-Gate platform as an
answer to these challenges and requirements.
The world’s population is ageing in almost every
country in the world. According to data from United
Nations, the number of older persons those aged
60 years or over is expected to more than double
by 2050 and to more than triple by 2100, rising from
962 million globally in 2017 to 2.1 billion in 2050
and 3.1 billion in 2100. Globally, population aged 60
or over is growing faster than all younger age groups
(UN, 2017). This trend has become one of the most
significant social transformation of the twenty-first
century, with implications for nearly all sectors of
society, including health, labour and financial
markets, the demand for goods and services, such as
housing, transportation and social protection, as well
as family structures and intergenerational ties.
Therefore, different parties undertake various
activities to allow seniors to live independently, in
order to improve their quality of life and autonomy
and reduce the cost of their care. One of the solution
in this area is the ActGo-Gate project (Active
Retiree and Golden Workers Gate, AGG). It focuses
on the occupational activation of the elderly people
with the use of modern technologies and includes a
number of activities in the social, business and
technological dimension. The aim of the platform
developed within this project is the end-to-end
support all involved parties, including senior end
users, intermediaries, service providers and
employers. To provide them with immediate, short-
term benefits in their daily lives or daily work
operations, respectively, is key to motivate them to
become part of the local marketplace (Osl, Österle,
2015). That is why the technical development was
focused on enabling all the considered stakeholders
the possibility of being an active part of the growing
social e-marketplace for voluntary engagements and
jobs. The primary end users i.e. volunteers and
people in need of help get an ICT tool which enables
to look for different kind of occupational
opportunities (one-time services, long-term jobs
Those stakeholders with the given policies,
strategies, processes, information identified at the
early stage of the project as well as used
technologies and existing business applications
constitute a very challenging and heterogeneous
technology ecosystem. During the research and
development process, using the modern and
innovative scientific and practical approaches (like
design science method, agile approach etc.) a set of
business challenges in that ecosystem was elicited.
The designed, developed and implemented ICT
platform face those challenges and provide the
highest possible added value by introducing some
technological innovations.
The aim of the paper is to present this ICT
platform from technical perspective and especially
Gryncewicz, W., Kutera, R. and Rot, A.
Business Challenges and Technological Innovations Applied in the ICT Platform for Occupational Activation of Senior Citizens.
DOI: 10.5220/0006804802500257
In Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Ageing Well and e-Health (ICT4AWE 2018), pages 250-257
ISBN: 978-989-758-299-8
2019 by SCITEPRESS Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
to emphasise its technological innovations, paired
with respective business challenges.
The problems and opportunities mentioned in the
previous section are addressed by the AGG project.
Its vision is to create an ICT based marketplace
supporting entrepreneurship, self-fulfilment and
social participation for golden workers and active
retirees. The model builds on local social
marketplaces that serve as a basis and starting point
for developing three occupational modules: “Serve
the community”, “Flexible occupation” and “Get
involved with organizations”, that start off in three
different pilot regions. AGG is one of the first of its
kind to provide a gate for a wide range of
occupational possibilities. Thereby, market
fragmentations as we see them nowadays can be
transcended. AGG provides end users with easy
access to this integrated gate and enable them to
offer their skills to other community members.
To integrate the occupational modules with the
existing local social marketplaces, a modular
approach is targeted for the technical realization. It
offers tools for efficient transactional occupational
operations (appointments coordination, quality
assurance, payment handling, reporting etc.), both
for professional as well as informal activities.
The architecture of the ActGo-Gate platform
involves 4 components (Lopacinski et al., 2017):
Appointment Coordination System (ACS),
Recruiting Service System (RSS),
Gate Application (AGG),
User Management & Identity System (UMIS).
Clients (ACS and RSS) are the systems constituting
autonomous Internet services, which deal with
specific forms of offerings and provide necessary
functionalities such as the appointment coordination
(in the case of ACS) or recruitment (in the case of
Gate Application (AGG) constitutes a single
point of access for all user groups. It determines not
only the visual branding of the integrated solution
but also defines the general look and feel of the user
interface for the main audience, service providers
and employees of care-giving organizations. Within
the portals framework, the activities of users and the
transactions executed via all the components of the
platform are integrated and harmonized.
In the backend AGG makes its Application
Programming Interface (API) available and itself
uses the client's APIs to ensure the greatest possible
homogeneity of data, functionality and secure access
control. As far as the functional dimension is
concerned, the most important task is to provide a
tool for searching the offers and for the management
of the user's publications. From a usability
perspective, the portal provides the target group with
an interface, adjusted to the perception of elderly
people. Besides these functionalities a core objective
of the Gate Application is to brand the solution in
the market, explain it visually and in text and thus
build up trust within the local community (Söllner et
al., 2016). These objectives are mainly addressed by
the use of a state of the art Content Management
System (CMS). The administrator panel of CMS
allows managing the integration settings, including
necessary parameters, mapping of main entities etc.
The User Management and Identity System
(UMIS) provides ICT tools which facilitate the
user’s registration and authentication, i.e. logging in
users with Single Sign On (SSO) feature or
providing information on the identity of the users to
the services. SSO is a crucial property to ensure the
integration of separate systems delivering the
functionality of the marketplace (Kutera,
Gryncewicz, 2016).
All described above components constitute a
technically heterogeneous and organizationally
distributed ICT platform dedicated to elderly users.
During the research and development process, using
the modern and innovative scientific and practical
approaches, a set of business challenges was elicited.
Those challenges, emerging from gathered
requirements, were described in the next section of
the paper paired with respective technological
innovations which were implemented in the ActGo-
Gate platform as an answer to these challenges.
4.1 Heterogeneity of Elementary
E-marketplace Platforms
E-marketplaces must adopt to various demands and
Business Challenges and Technological Innovations Applied in the ICT Platform for Occupational Activation of Senior Citizens
therefore consist out of various logical and technical
modules (Schenkel et al., 2013). As a result, one of
the core challenges is to include various existing or
newly created services in order to ensure functional
scalability and growth with user’s needs. This
requirement asks for efficient, quick and adaptable
technological solutions, especially in case of new
service integration or increased loads on integrated
web services or portal. Moreover, as integrated
solutions usually are dedicated to a particular use
case, and often are developed in different
technologies, using various design patterns (Kutera,
Gryncewicz, 2017) every portal solution has to deal
with the specific character of each service in a
standardized way. This clearly determines a
generalized approach to building the meta
application/portal, both in the data structure and
business logic dimension. Consequently, a
heterogeneous e-marketplace can have many access
points with different user interfaces, APIs and user
flows inside the particular applications. An
integrated service e-marketplace addressing this
means to organize and standardize the exchange of
information among cooperating applications in a
way that everyone can understand each other and
functional synergies can be leveraged. What is more,
these e-marketplaces should focus on the way of
visual and procedural integration to keep entry
barriers for users on low level.
Technological innovation: Application of Web-
oriented Architecture with loose coupling
The software integration planned in the ActGo-Gate
project includes a wide range of applications with
their specific architectures, interfaces and APIs:
client applications ACS, developed in
Python (Pylons Pyramid framework + Mako)
and RSS, developed in Java (Liferay Portal),
the gate application, built mainly on top of
Laravel (PHP) and AngularJS (JavaScript)
UMIS with Connect2ID application for
handling OpenID Connect protocol (Single
Sign On) developed in Java.
All applications within the platform are built with
the responsive web design paradigm, allowing users
to use them on every device, from desktop computer
to mobile devices using technologies like JSF,
AngularJS, HTML5, Bootstrap and Sass.
The particular problem of integrating various
relatively independent services was solved in the
designed service e-marketplace, using Web-oriented
Architecture (WOA) (Kutera, Gryncewicz, 2017). It
is the extension of the SOA (Service-oriented
Architecture paradigm) to web-based applications
emphasizing generality of user interfaces and
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to
achieve global network effects (Thies, Vossen,
2009). Allowing efficient communication between
internal modules of the WOA-based network
application as well as horizontal and vertical
scalability are its core objectives (Kleinschmidt et
al., 2017). These goals are reached thanks to using
lightweight open standards such as REST
(Representational State Transfer) or OpenID
Connect (Pautasso, 2014) (Rauf, 2013).
The main principle of ActGo-Gate system is to
build and deploy an application that is able to
cooperate with different services owned by
particular service providers while taking into
account the lowest possible entry threshold. That is
why the loose coupling paradigm and WOA (Web-
oriented architecture) architectural style was chosen
and adapted for project purposes. The concept of
integration is illustrated at Figure 1.
Figure 1: The high-level concept of integration. Source:
(Kutera, Gryncewicz, 2017).
This concept indicates three main foundations for
integration of service e-marketplaces (clients) under
one system – the integrator (a role played by the gate
application) (Kutera, Gryncewicz, 2017): user
interface, data & business logic and security.
While the first level is related only to front-end
adaptations within a particular system in compliance
with the given standard, the two backend levels
depend strongly on data exchange and
communication between clients and the integrator
(Maciaszek et al., 2017).
The communication integrator 3rd party
service within data and security integration should
be based on WOA principles and loose coupling
paradigm in order to keep all data consistent and
ICT4AWE 2018 - 4th International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Ageing Well and e-Health
The application was developed with WOA
principles and uses the Vendor-based architecture to
encapsulate the business logic responsible for every
particular area of interest (like offer synchronization,
user data exchange and authentication, data
processing or site management). Two of them are
cooperating directly with clients (Synchronization
vendor and User vendor) through REST
communication protocol and dedicated endpoints
(each partner in the communication process is
equipped with discovery API, a dictionary of all web
services dedicated for communication within ActGo-
Gate ecosystem).
The service e-marketplaces needs a set of
endpoints connected with data & business logic as
well as security. The first one concerns endpoints for
each objective entity (like category or offer, where
operations are defined by particular HTTP methods),
while the second one user endpoint and all
supportive entities which help to authenticate him
and grant proper privileges. Among those entities
common structural elements should be defined and
they should be treated as the basis for the
4.2 Heterogeneity of Business Logic of
Elementary E-marketplaces
The standalone e-marketplaces are very
differentiated and varied as service suppliers offer to
their customers more specialized services and
concentrate on narrow customer segments.
Therefore, there are significant differences between
the business logic of each of them. Some of the
modules require coordination of appointments (one-
time services), the others use recruitment and
evaluation process (recurrent or long-term services)
(Maciaszek et al., 2017). That is why the process of
ordering cannot be unified and be performed in a
same way for every service. The integration of such
heterogeneous processes is very challenging and
requires a significant effort on the integrator’s and
the client’s side and therefore constitutes an
important barrier and high entry threshold,
especially for the applying side.
Technological Innovation: APIs for Common
In the ActGo-Gate case, transactional entities (like
appointment, order, recruitment, event, project etc.)
are fundamentally diversified in the various
modules. This reality had to be accepted working on
an integrated solution. That is why the decision was
to let individual core processes to be performed only
in 3rd party services (and use the UI integration
level for displaying 3rd party’s view within the
integrator UI), which are fully specialized in such
processes (Kutera, Gryncewicz, 2017).
The ACS system contains a set of processes of
appointment coordination, which can handle
different scenarios of appointment coordination
(dependent of the side initiating the process, the
knowledge of identity of both sides of the
appointment, the nature of the request etc. All
elementary actions along the process are
encapsulated into reusable web services (Kutera et
al., 2017). The processes are taking into account
very specific functional requirements like
automation of dispatching process, performance
confirmation or flexibility of pricing and price
negotiations. They are required only in those
processes and don’t need to be integrated and
available for other connected e-marketplaces (clients
of the integrated solution).
On the other hand, the RSS module is focussing
on mediation of organized and long-term
volunteering work. In comparison to ACS it does not
cover peer-to-peer activities and short-time
scheduling of appointments. It’s core functionalities
and business logic are thus different and aren’t
covered nor duplicated in the portal application.
Nevertheless, there are similarities not only
concerning the module’s general purpose but also
concerning match-making process covered in the
application. In AGG project common functionalities
between modules have been identified and a
reusable set of API-calls was identified.
4.3 Heterogeneity of Data Provided by
Elementary E-Marketplaces
Different modules were designed with taking into
account the domain knowledge on the specific field,
which they are dedicated to. Having a different
background, data structures developed for the
application are different at various levels:
namespace the same entities can be named
differently and there is a need to identify them
properly and map them to respective entities
required by the gate application,
structure / relationships between entities,
dependent on context and business
requirements, there could be 1:N or M:N
relationships - the second type usually
introduces additional data structures like pivot
table in SQL,
specific entities entities specific only for the
domain covered by the application.
Business Challenges and Technological Innovations Applied in the ICT Platform for Occupational Activation of Senior Citizens
It was one of the major challenge of the project to
handle the diversity on the level of data structures
and still provide the user a consistent UI level.
Technological Innovation: Metadata Model and
Data Synchronization
Handling the data models, especially the feeds of
published offers is one of the key features of the
integrated e-marketplace in the ActGo-Gate project.
The synchronization process was planned carefully
to predict all possible scenarios of data exchange
between the clients and the integrator for all CRUD
(Create, Read, Update, Delete) operations. As
always in synchronization deletion of offers was
most difficult to handle in both cases: when the
client uses soft deletion of the record (setting the
proper value for the particular record) or hard
deletion (physical removal of the record). As a result
all offers gathered from offer feeds sent by
cooperating client applications are stored in a central
repository after being processed by the dedicated
vendors: Synchronization vendor and Data vendor.
The most important business rules for the central
offer entity are following (Kutera, Gryncewicz,
offer has to be assigned to at least one
neighbourhood and category,
offer has to be mapped with client offer index,
offer has to be owned by one or more users,
offer is obliged to have geographical
coordinates set for displaying it on map,
offer which don’t have any active owner or
assignment to an active category or
neighbourhood has to be deleted.
The business process of the synchronization was
modelled using the BPMN notation (Figure 2). The
synchronization process itself is invoked
automatically by using Linux CRON mechanisms at
a certain schedule. One of the assumptions, arranged
in the integration contract, is the focus on the
continuous transmission of relatively small pieces of
information to keep the consistency of the data
within all systems. That is why the data flows
contain only information about recent changes
(added as well as modified or deleted offers). The
most important fact is that the relations are related to
a certain sequence: E.g. before the direct request for
an offer is sent, neighbourhoods and categories have
to be synchronized.
The request for the offer synchronization is
invoked automatically by CRON server tool. The
request is sent via the routing API to the proper URI.
Then the collection of offers is being built and
converted to the JSON format. As the web service
get the time limiter parameter every offer is checked
whether timestamp of last update operation fits the
requested period. If the collection is ready, the
synchronization endpoint of the integrator receives
it. It is being validated for syntax (expected structure
and data types) and proper dependencies
(neighbourhood, category, user). If any dependency
is returning errors, the offer is omitted and such a
fact is recorded in log files and optionally an alert is
sent to the administrator. After a successful
validation, the offer data is being processed by the
decorator, which role is to convert data to the
integrator-specific structure. Decorator is also
adjusting the timestamps and checking the
availability status of the offer. Log counters are also
updated. All offers from the collections are checked
within a multi-instance loop and if it ends the
synchronization result is logged (Kutera,
Gryncewicz, 2017). As a result the information
about the offers is standardized and grouped into
categories. The offers can be browsed in different
views of catalogue (Rot et al., 2017).
The User Vendor resides in the gate application,
which gathers, processes and synchronizes the user
data with the central user repository. It supports the
UMIS in keeping user data consistent with clients.
This vendor is communicating with dedicated
endpoints on client side (Registration and Update
Endpoint) in case of the respective event (user is
registering or user is modifying his/her user data).
The communication with those endpoints ends with
a success message from client side.
Figure 2. The high-level process of overall synchronization task. Source: (Kutera, Gryncewicz, 2017).
ICT4AWE 2018 - 4th International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies for Ageing Well and e-Health
4.4 Various E-marketplace
Applications with Various Access
Control and Safety Policies
The applications like ACS and RSS functionally rely
on authenticated users. Such services provide some
public information to anonymous users, but the core
functionality of any marketplace is related to reliable
authentication and authorization as well as safety of
personal data. As a result, the functionality of initial
registration, login and user master data maintenance
need to be available in all modules and therefore was
identified as potential synergy of a comprehensive
gate application. Furthermore, the topic of
authentication, authorization and personal data is
related to user acceptance, security and trust – which
was an explicit domain of a comprehensive portal
application (Phang et al., 2006) (Clercq, 2002) (Rot,
2016). The requirement to set up a central User
Management and Identity System (UMIS) and
Single-Sign-On (SSO) was clear even if all
modules came with its own dedicated and
independent solution.
Technological Innovation: Central UMIS and
SSO One Account for All Integrated
E-marketplace Applications
The result of integration in the field of security and
access control is obvious: users are able to get an
access to a wide range of services with just one
profile. Their access data is securely managed on the
ActGo-Gate site (in the mentioned separated module
the UMIS module). With such an account, user
gets access to offers in various areas, without having
to remember multiple passwords and mail addresses
combinations to protect data. Whether they want to
use or provide a service, they simply create or search
for an offer through their account and agree on the
details. The application ensures one access, safe and
The choice of the protocol was made among
three solutions: OAuth 2.0, OpenID Connect and
SAML. The choice was difficult as they are in some
way complementary but different in their basis.
Finally OpenID Connect (OIDC) was chosen as it
satisfied all the requirements and therefore should
ensure full SSO property by cooperating with the
common user directory (Kutera, Gryncewicz, 2016).
The particular solution chosen for implementing
OIDC was Connect2id (as Identity Provider) with an
OpenDJ LDAP user directory it is a solution
natively prepared for OIDC handling as well as
ready for communication with AGG, ACS and RSS
APIs, thanks to additional extensions written by the
author of the core server application.
What constitutes an unquestionable advantage of
the chosen architecture with a separate component
UMIS is a considerable degree of separation of the
user data and of the processes related to the
management thereof from the other IT systems. This
results in a data security improvement. Furthermore,
the centralization of the user management makes the
platform very interoperable and therefore it is easily
extendable by new clients, whose task is to provide
complementary services to the platform's current
offer. The choice was made also to create the
innovative brand of the integrated e-marketplace and
build trust among the users, as well as to ensure a
good user experience with a single sign on.
4.5 Elderly People Use the Digital
Technology Differently
Many adult people have the basic skills in usage of
the interactive devices, and thus, are more likely to
already be familiar with computers, mobile devices,
and related technology. The system is designed to
support them in their search for additional
employment and/or help to improve their quality of
life by offering them a single access to online
services provided by professional organizations or
private persons. Pilots showed that access to
applications needs to be very low-threshold from a
usability perspective.
The real challenge is how to entice elderly
people to request services, where many people could
possibly be afraid of utilizing ICTs in their day-to-
day operations. They require to get user-friendly
interfaces and very clear and simple procedures with
contextual support.
Technological Innovation: Responsive Interface
with Additional Adjustments Dedicated for
People with Sight Disabilities
In general, the development of the frontend part of
the applications was performed in compliance with
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0
(W3C Consortium, 2008). Its aim is to make content
accessible to a wider range of people with
disabilities, including blindness and low vision,
deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities,
cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech
disabilities, photosensitivity and combinations of
these. Special attention was put on visualization to
create friendly and clear interface with intuitive text
formatting and clear icons to simplify the cognition
process among the site content. The navigation
Business Challenges and Technological Innovations Applied in the ICT Platform for Occupational Activation of Senior Citizens
schema is intuitive and easy, supported by additional
explanations at every stage of navigating through the
site. The error handling policy is also well developed
by equipping the active interface elements with
validation rules on the frontend and with clear
explanations about the nature of the error. The gate
application is also offering an adjustment tool that
allows for resizing text content up to 22 pts and
change the original layout on the simplified, high-
contrast one (Rot et al., 2017). As it was already
mentioned, the application can adapt to any display
size so even on mobile device the content is easy
accessible for elderly people - in mobile views most
operations can be accessed via the dedicated
intuitive mobile menu.
The key challenges in this project were mostly
related to various aspects of a technically
heterogeneous and organizationally distributed setup
as well as specific business requirements coming
from the heterogonous market. Most of its
technological innovations addressed the various
aspects of integration in a technical but also
organizational sense. Distribution, heterogeneity,
and complexity only could be handled due to a
strong domain-driven thinking, a modular, black
box-approach relying on common but relatively
simple APIs and of course the use of open standards
at any interface. Applying an agile approach and
involving the user on a regular basis as well as
automated deployment and testing allowed to deliver
and improve an integrated solution step by step
(AGG Consortium, 2018).
The Authors are aware of the fact, that such a
modular solution has some limitations and the most
noticeable one is the difference of the particular UIs.
Such fact leads to worse user experience, when users
need to learn and use the similar, but not the same
graphical, structural and navigation schema in
particular client application. Applying common style
guidelines and standard behaviour could cause that
marketplace may be treated by the user as
homogenous one, as various apps on a smartphone
with its operating system providing all the shared
styling and base functionality.
Weak awareness of the advantages of buying and
selling services among elderly people and a limited
general trust to online markets is still a problem. The
developed platform provides relatively simple
transactional workflow for each kind of supported
activity and support of the intermediary at the
crucial levels of the process, however the results
from pilot implementations still show that the
barriers have not been overcome completely despite
many organic activities like presentations and
trainings. Such problems have to be taken into
consideration in the evolution of the current
implementation and the corresponding business
The technological achievements of the project
have been evaluated in real-life pilots both by
regular users and service providers as well as social
organizations that supports elderly users in their
social activation. The results in general show that
users are willing to be supported by such ICT
platform in their occupational activation, they see
the advantages of such a support and have a positive
opinion of having one hub for many offers and one
accounts to access them easily. Those areas, that still
need to be improved, were clearly identified and
potential solutions were discussed with all the
stakeholders and all of them will be the basis for the
further research work of the authors.
ActGo-Gate is part of AAL Joint Programme Call 6,
a funding activity that aims to create better condition
of life for the older adults and to strengthen the
industrial opportunities in Europe through the use of
ICT. The consortium consists of 7 partners from
Switzerland, Germany and Poland. In Poland, the
project is funded by the National Centre for
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