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Wearable and Assistive Technology

Market research into wearable and assistive technology indicates that a major – possibly the major – segment of the market will be for devices that include motion detection, such as the variety of smart watches that are becoming available now, of which perhaps the best known and most eagerly anticipated is the Apple Watch. With Apple’s extraordinary marketing behind it, it is likely to be a great success, not least because Apple has a legion of devoted early adopters ready to snap it up in quantity. The publicity from this exercise is likely to legitimise wearable technology in the eyes of many consumers, and also possibly some in the medical profession, not least those who are already looking at potential applications for such devices.

However, at least in the short term, monitoring of steps, for example, using a device attached to the wrist has been found not to be particularly accurate because of the wide variety of possible actions that the wrist and arm undertake. As a software-driven device with a built-in accelerometer, it is of course also possible to make a stab at identifying falls. However when wrist-worn devices have been tested for this application, they have either failed to identify the fall, or have done so, but in the process generate so many false positive alarms that the device has been abandoned, because of its high nuisance value.

Other parts of the body have been used to harbour such technology, for example hanging from the neck in a pendant, but this has several disadvantages in that it is also, though to a lesser degree, free swinging and therefore writing software for it is much harder since a wide variety of conditions must be identified and catered for. Also, there is some stigma attached to such wearable technology being visible outside clothing as it tends to identify the wearer as having a disability and may well conflict with other and more favoured jewellery being worn. If it is concealed under clothing, the button to activate/deactivate the alarm call may well be hard or impossible to reach, particularly after a fall. A pendant worn around the neck also will be harder (perhaps impossible) to programme to identify steps accurately, than something worn at waist or hip level, for example. The lanyard looped around the neck may also present dangers to the wearer from throttling, if it gets caught on something.

Another idea being tested is to make use of the accelerometer, which is invariably present in virtually all smartphones, to identify a fall automatically as well as counting steps. The disadvantage here is that the smartphone will not necessarily be carried on the body all the time, unless the wearer is travelling outside the house. Even then it is likely to be placed in a variety of pockets, breast or trouser etc., which will inevitably affect the accuracy of the device, and may cause it to generate unnecessary false alarms. Most people are unlikely to pick up their smartphone from the bedside table on their way to the bathroom at night – a dangerous trip in every sense of the word.

Clearly an assistive technology device akin to a pendant can be stuck onto the body by tape, or some other method, however this brings into the equation a number of other issues such as hygiene, easy removal, location to be used etc. Wherever it is placed will not suit everyone all the time, and if it is left to the wearer’s discretion it will probably be forgotten or misplaced either on the body, or elsewhere.

The fact that there is, so far, no standard answer to this question indicates that what appears to be such an apparently simple issue is in reality nothing of the kind and is compounded by the usual disadvantage that nobody really wants to carry around a single-purpose device unless they absolutely have to. Who, for example, in developed societies today bothers with a mobile telephone that just has a single telephone function alone? It was tolerated in the 80’s and 90’s when nothing else was available, but no longer.

So, what is required is a device that can be located at hip level ideally, since that is the most stable location on the body and is therefore likely to give the best results when its software is attempting to identify a fall, and also will give much more consistent and accurate results when used to count steps since it is part of, or at least close to, the wearer’s ambulatory system. Now, you could just stick a small device on the hip and hope for the best. However that would run into some of the problems mentioned above and might also cause injury to the wearer in a fall, or indeed be itself damaged in such an event. Clearly the ideal scenario would be if the wearer, who by definition is likely to be a fairly frequent faller, or at least in danger of falling at any time as the result of a variety of medical conditions, was wearing a hip protector to prevent fracture of the hip in just such a fall.

The marketing forecasts for assistive and wearable technology mentioned above have also indicated that the more successful devices are likely to be co-located on/with the body’s area that they are trying to monitor and it would appear that the most promising location for a device that monitors falls and counts steps would be actually in the hip protector device itself. Fall-Safe Assist exactly meets this requirement by being held in a cavity in Hip Impact Protection’s very comfortable and effective hip protectors, called Fall-Safe. These are held in the correct place over the head/neck of the femur by underpants with pockets on either hip. Only one hip protector need contain the Fall-Safe Assist device.



What Our Users Are Saying..

Bernadette Taylor
2016-04-26, 10:45
Dear William,

The hip protectors are great and we like the new material in the underpants.

Thanks again, Bernadette
Geoffrey Hampden-Smith
2016-04-26, 10:39
Dear William. Your package arrived very promptly several days ago. Thank you very much. I am wearing the hip protectors while recuperating from a fall - with the prognosis of a month on crutches. They are very, very comfortable and not noticeable under my track suit. Wearing the pants with the protectors gives me the confidence to do more on crutches and I am hoping that this this will accelerate my re-habilitation.

I am 67 years old and still work in a boatyard. I just wish I was aware of … read more