Slideshow: 7 technologies working to prevent falls

By Jonah Comstock
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Carpet could fare better

Manchester Carpet

One drawback of smart shoes is that to be useful, people still have to remember to wear them. If their sensors are powered, they need to be charged or have their batteries replaced. Can we really expect people to charge their shoes each night?

Several projects making headlines recently avoid that problem by building sensors right into the floor. In the UK, The University of Manchester has developed a smart carpet. Plastic optical fibers in the underlay of the carpet track walking patterns in realtime. Just like with shoe sensors, the goal is to detect the changes in gait that can presage a fall. The University hopes to see the technology, which can be retrofitted at low cost, deployed in nursing homes and hospitals first, and possibly later for home use. Intel and GE's Care Innovations initiative is working on a similar technology, which has been referred to as a "magic carpet."

USC floor sensor

Similarly, researchers at the University of South Carolina have re-worked sensors used to measure stress on bridges to the purpose of tracking vibrations created by a person's movement. The matchbox-sized sensors, placed on the floor or baseboard of a room, are very sensitive and can determine the location and weight of any object hitting the floor.