Living independently in own home is a major concern for elderly people, since being alone can be risky if a fall happens or some other emergency strikes. Ever since the “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” days, geriatrics had the option of wearing a device through which to call for help, but it still required the user to remain conscious and had no built-in smarts besides the basic intercom feature. Researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation in Germany have been working with a social services foundation and a couple private companies to develop a new technological solution that can detect falls, hear cries for help, and automatically call emergency services when something is wrong.
The Safe@home system works thanks to special sensors attached to the ceilings of a person’s home, similar to smoke alarms. These have cameras and microphones that together work to detect falls and unexpected motion pauses. Once a fall is noticed, the system first sounds an audio prompt to check whether it might be a false alarm. If the person replies that everything is OK, it goes back to monitoring, but if not, the system can call, send text messages, and email relatives, first responders, and neighbors.
From the announcement:
Prototypes of the emergency detection system have been undergoing round-the-clock operational testing in six residential care home units since mid-2012. In order to establish statistically significant detection rates, emergency situations were simulated in addition to evaluating normal operation. So far, the subjects of the test system have accepted the system and do not feel the the sensor boxes are annoying. Instead, they fulfilled their main requirement of enhancing personal safety. The seniors assess the automatic confirmation as useful. “One reason for the high acceptance rates are the comprehensive interviews we carry out in advance with potential users in order to find out what they value in a fall detection system,” says Pflüger. The most important thing for those interviewed was that the system work reliably and properly in every room during routine daily life, and that it could be integrated in every kind of living space. Those interviewed also wanted to have as little contact with the technology as possible.
Press release: Helping preserve independent living…