Following on from our previous article on tech developments in the world of carpet, it turns out that carpet is not necessarily the low tech product everyone thought it was.
A team of scientists and researchers at Durham University in the UK has been working on what they have dubbed a ‘magic carpet’ to help prevent situations where elderly people fall. A slight fall is not a problem generally, but for older people a fall can be very serious, especially if they are suffering from reduced bone density, where fractures can occur from what look like minor falls. In the UK about half of all hospital admissions for people aged over 65 are due to falls.
The team has developed a technology that uses the same principles as medical tomographic scanning equipment under the carpet itself which maps a 2D image and can sound the alert if someone trips or falls on the carpet. It can also be used to detect variations in someone’s gait, or walk, over a longer period of time, which would then indicate to the person or their carers that a fall may be more likely. The researchers also say that the system could in the future be designed to warn of other problems, such as chemical spillage or fire.
As described on the University of Manchester website, “tiny electronics at the edges act as sensors and relay signals to a computer. These signals can then be analysed to show the image of the footprint and identify gradual changes in walking behaviour or a sudden incident such as a fall or trip. the can also show a steady deterioration or change in walking habits, possibly predicting a dramatic episode such as a fall.”
Dr Patricia Scully from the Photon Science Institute at the University of Manchester (who is leading the research team) explained that the new technology can be retrofitted to existing carpet at low cost and incorporated easily into not just carpet, but also other areas, such as mattresses and walls.
The system’s primary application would be in hospitals and aged care homes, although given its ability to monitor and report on a range of factors, from ‘chemical sensing of body fluids’ to biomechanical factors, other applications in normal houses and in physiotherapy clinics are future possibilities.
The big question we have for the researchers is – will it clean?