University of South Carolina

Team tests new use for standard sensors
Researchers' efforts lead to less intrusive, more precise sensor

Fall monitoring device could end standoffs, keep seniors safer

By Margaret M. Lamb, 803-777-5400

It’s a scenario played out all too frequently: Adult children, worried about the safety of their aging parents, foist devices on them to monitor their safety. And their parents, resentful of having their privacy invaded and losing their independence, resist fiercely.

Now a team of researchers from the University of South Carolina and Environment and Health Group Inc. is developing and testing a simple, innovative program that might just end such standoffs – and create a safer environment for seniors.

The program is the brainchild of professors in USC’s College of Engineering and Computing and faculty at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, the College of Social Work, Palmetto Health and Environmental Health Group Inc.

Lead USC researcher Juan Caicedo has taken standard sensors that monitor bridge safety and developed an algorithm that can detect and possibly prevent falls by sensing vibrations associated with an individual’s movement. The matchbox-sized sensors, which are placed on a floor or a baseboard of a room, can detect any movement or vibration and then transmit them to a nearby computer.

“The beauty of the program is that it does not use cameras or microphones, so it is a lot less intrusive,” Caicedo, a professor of civil engineering, said. “Someone can’t listen to what you are saying or see inside your home. Although sensors are not new, the innovation is in how the different signals are processed.”

Caicedo is working with colleagues Michael Huhns, June Shin and Paul Ziehl in the College of Engineering and Computing and Dr. Victor Hirth (USC School of Medicine) and Sue Levkoff (College of Social Work and SeniorHOME®, Endowed Chair), and Debra Krotish, primary investigator from Environment and Health Group Inc.

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