60-Second Tech

Home Wireless Network Detects Elderly Tumbles

Wireless signals create a 3-D map of a room and can monitor any unusual movement, such as a fall or unusual period of quiescence. Larry Greenemeier reports.

“I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”

Years ago, the best option for people in this position was to press a button on their monitoring device and call for help. But that’s not always possible, especially if such a fall renders a person unconscious.

So electrical engineers at the University of Utah have come up with a fall-detection system that instead relies on wireless sensors placed around a room. The sensors emit wireless signals that bounce off of whatever’s in the room and create a 3-D map using radio tomographic imaging.

By setting the sensors at different heights, you can tell when someone is standing, sitting or lying down, and for how long. Once the room is mapped, you can program the system to send an alert whenever there’s a fall-like movement, or an unusual period of no movement.

The researchers presented their prototype system at a symposium in London.

The technology has obvious application as a home monitoring system for the elderly. No need for them to wear a button on a string around their neck as a constant reminder that gravity is their enemy.

—Larry Greenemeier

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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