By means of this biannual project a mechanism for the detection of falls and the monitoring of the activity of the elderly has been developed.
According to the statistics, 30% of elderly people have a fall at least once every year and falls are responsible for 70% of accidental deaths in persons over 75. Taking these figures into account, it was concluded that an effective system for the detection of falls would drastically improve the quality of life amongst the elderly.
The targets of this research were to increase safety, to "relax" the elderly person's environment, to enhance the possibilities of elderly people living alone and to enable normal activity amongst the elderly without limitations or fears.
The basic requirements put forward were ease of use (user-friendly), portability, discreet design and minimum discomfort and annoyance for the end user.
The technologies studied for the detection of falls can be grouped as follows:
- detectors based on the surroundings
- worn devices (devices integrated into clothing)
The design achieved has two modules:
- the worn device module, which is autonomous and portable, has the main functions of the automatic detection of falls, the location and monitoring of the user and the monitoring of their everyday activity
- the Call Centre module, communicating with the portable module and carrying out an ongoing analysis of the data received. In case of emergency, it makes direct contact with the user, co-ordinates emergency services and sends the assistance appropriate to each case.
The functions incorporated are:
- monitoring of everyday activity in order to detect abnormal behaviour, physical activity and to have an updated comparative medical record
- detection of falls: thorough detection of the fall with the option of activating or deactivating the alarm manually
- geographical location of user and immediate assistance if required.
To date there is no single, small and portable commercial system that incorporates these functions. In technical terms, the new system is fitted with a GPS locating device, a bi-axial accelerometer (for the detection of falls and of activity), all connected to the Call Centre using GSM/GPRS technology. All of this technological solution has been designed keeping in mind smallness and compactness and the device being lightweight, user-friendly and portable, not forgetting reasonableness of price.
The Call Centre is a series of data bases designed to carry out monitoring, information of analysis algorithms and an emergency protocol. The design is based on a Microsoft .Net platform and has an internet web portal accessible to the doctors and paramedics involved in the service. The information received from the portable devices is updated in real time and automatically.