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

Under the direction of Levkoff, SeniorSMART,® funded by the Smart State Centers of Economic Excellence program, was established to improve the lives of older adults by creating products and services, and conducting research to promote independence.

“In this case, the program detects the vibrations, (a possible fall), the exact spot of the vibrations and then estimates the force of impact of the object hitting the floor,” Caicedo said. “It can identify the impact of a small ball bouncing or the weight of an adult.”

After the vibrations are transmitted to the computer, they can be transmitted to a family member’s cell phone or computer. So, finding Mom or Dad early after a fall is helpful, but can it prevent falls? And if so, then how? Caicedo said the sensors are sensitive enough to detect gait patterns. “If someone begins to walk more slowly or shuffle, then the sensors will detect the change in the vibrations and transmit that to the computer. This is particularly helpful because it could detect the subtle, long-term changes that might go unnoticed by friends and family members and identify who is at risk.”

To exclude competing vibrations that could, literally, send mixed signals, Caicedo is refining his technique through rigorous testing in his lab and at area retirement homes, including Still Hopes Episcopal Retirement Home, The Lutheran Homes of South Carolina and The Oaks Retirement Homes in Orangeburg, S.C.

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