Drones and smartphones can save older Australians from falls

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Drones, smartphones and sensors could provide a lifeline to the world’s growing elderly population who are at risk of falls.

A new system has been designed by a team of researchers from Iraq and the University of South Australia (UniSA) to remotely monitor elderly people by detecting abnormalities in their heart rates and temperatures that can lead to falls, and to provide urgent first aid via a drone if a fall occurs.

In a new paper, the researchers describe how a wearable device can monitor vital signs using a wireless sensor attached to the upper arm and send a message to an emergency call centre if physiological abnormalities or falls are detected.

“When a case is critical, first aid supplies can be delivered to the patient and their carer via a drone, up to 105 seconds faster than an ambulance,” according to UniSa Professor Javaan Chahl.

“The system not only correctly measures heart rate and falls with 99 per cent accuracy, but also identifies the elderly person’s location and delivers first aid much faster.”

“We have also designed an advanced smartphone-based program that uses an intelligent autopilot, containing a destination waypoint for planning the path of a drone,” says research collaborator Dr Sadik Kamel Gharghan from Baghdad’s Middle Technical University.

The fall detection device consists of a microcontroller, two biosensors, and a GPS module to track the location and send a notification to the smartphones of caregivers. The second part includes a first aid package, a smartphone and a drone to deliver the package.

It is estimated that around 30 per cent of adults over the age of 65 experience at least one fall a year, in many cases fracturing a hip, or sustaining head injuries.

The annual global cost of fall-related acute care for older people has risen dramatically in recent years as the world’s population ages.

In Australia, the annual cost exceeds $600 million, and this figure blows out to billions of dollars each year in the United States and other parts of the world.

The most recent figures show that falls account for 40 per cent of injury-related deaths and one per cent of total deaths in people aged over 65 years.

Would you wear a device that constantly monitored your health to avoid the potential for falls?

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Written by Ben



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