As the field of wearable technology continues to grow, so does the number of applications within it.
From head to toe, we’re getting to the point where “there’s an app for that.” For example…
- Robotic exoskeletons that allow paralyzed people to walk.
- A device that fixes heart failure in 15 minutes.
- Wearable patches that monitor blood pressure.
- Smart glasses for the blind.
- Wearable devices that power your phone.
The list goes on and on.
Wearable devices seem to straddle the line between providing entertainment or monitoring/helping health and fitness.
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Bringing Airbag Technology to the Elderly
The World Health Organization says around 30% of adults over 65 years old suffer a fall at some point.
That prospect is bad enough for those who live with someone… but for those who don’t, it can be downright life-threatening.
There are several wearable devices that tackle this issue – and FATE is the latest to enter the fray.
Designed at Spain’s Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), the FATE Fall Detector harnesses the same kind of technology in car airbags to gauge when an elderly person has fallen.
As researcher, Joan Cabestany, explains, “The main principle used is accelerometry,” where sensors detect sudden acceleration that could indicate the wearer of the device has fallen.
When that happens, it sends an immediate alert to emergency services, who are able to locate the user through wireless tracking technology.
Is the System Too Good?
The notable difference between FATE and some other devices, of course, is that this one sends fall alerts automatically, rather than the user having to push a button themselves. This is key, as the do-it-yourself alert method wouldn’t be possible if the user is unconscious.
Elderly volunteers throughout Spain, Italy, and Ireland are currently testing the prototype device. And while they say it offers comfort and reassurance – particularly when they’re alone – the system has actually proved to be a little too sensitive so far. First responders have reported false alarms when FATE has interpreted movement incorrectly, so the system needs refining.
Nevertheless, some users have reported that while they’ve fallen and aren’t badly injured, they can’t get themselves backup, so when responders call to check, they still need assistance.
There was a time – not long ago – when elderly relatives and friends could spend hours, or even days, lying prone on the floor after a fall.
But technology like this has put an end to that. And by automatically alerting responders to a potential fall, rather than users having to do it themselves, it takes the design a step further, offering additional reassurance to both users and relatives