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Novel device enhancing care for older generation

Fall detectors, used mostly by the elderly, are limited by bad ergonomics and unreliability. A group of researchers proposed a new-generation device encompassing a whole fall detection system that enables early intervention and minimises the consequences of falls for this vulnerable population.
Novel device enhancing care for older generation
Funded by the EU, the objective of the project 'A wearable miniaturised fall-detection system for the elderly' (FALLWATCH) was to develop a wearable and radio-communicating fall-detection device. The first of its kind, the Vigi'Fall solution comprises a miniaturised embedded electronic device patched to the skin.

Seeking to overcome deficiencies of existing fall-detection products, FALLWATCH project partners advanced the concept of a comprehensive system able to manage a fall event from the moment it happens. From detecting the event to assessing its cause to initiating medical intervention, Vigi'Fall is a 'context-aware' rather than a standalone system.

Embedded on the holder, the device continuously measures kinematics and classifies the situation according to low, medium or high activity. Another system component, an in-home control box, monitors ambient activity from movement detectors, classifying the situation on its own three-degree scale (inactivity, average or exceptional).

Miniaturisation of the device involved complex technological routes for electronics (miniaturised multi-chip module (MCM)) and battery miniaturisation. Other technical work included development of a fall-detection algorithm, the construction and testing of an electrochromic display, the development and manufacture of a functional mechanical biocompatible package, and the selection of silicon material for the housing.

The prototype has been delivered and integrates the whole system, covering MCM, battery, electrochromic device, package and patch. Vigi'Fall has been validated on a first version of the prototype; following the industrialisation phase, it will be refined to produce a commercial first version of the device.

FALLWATCH achievements not only have the potential to better respond to the needs of the elderly in the event of a fall; a range of sectors will also benefit greatly. Small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) partners will boost their competitiveness and help develop MCM and battery design, biocompatible materials and packaging, electrochromic pigments and high-tech electronics in general. Moreover, SMEs will have extended opportunities in the human health market.

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