The United States Patent and Trademark Office recently granted IBM a patent for a multi-touch floor embedded with numerous sensors to identify the shapes, weights, and locations of objects that are in contact with it. The patent also includes the means by which information on the identified objects is retrieved and certain actions are executed based on the information.
IBM’s “related art” and primary applications in the patent description deal mainly with intelligent home security systems. For example, the multi-touch floor could sense whether a person who enters a home is a registered and authorized person, like the homeowner, or an unidentified person, such as a burglar. Beyond smart home security, however, IBM also describes a possible application for determining whether a person is in need of emergency medical attention. For example, the sensors in the multi-touch floor could detect if an elderly person has been lying on the floor in a prone position for an unusual period of time due to a fall or heart attack, and automatically summon for help.
Here’s IBM’s description of the scenario from the patent text:
In one embodiment, at step 960, object inactivity is sensed, such as a person lying prone on the floor. In one embodiment, also at step 960, the current health status of the object is retrieved, if possible, such as using a heart-rate monitor or other such device. A determination is made, based on the data received in step 960, as to whether the object might need assistance (decision 965). For example, an elderly person may have fallen on the floor and cannot get up or a person may have suffered a heart attack or other possibly life-threatening incident. If a health alert is detected, then decision 965 branches to “yes” branch 970 whereupon, at step 975 appropriate action is taken (e.g., contact emergency medical services (EMS), sound alarm, notify a caretaker, etc.). On the other hand, if no health alert is detected, then decision 965 branches to “no” branch 980 and processing returns to the calling routine (see, e.g., FIG. 8) at 995.
From the USPTO: Full text of patent #8,138,882 …