Sensors, drones, and smartphones lifeline to elderly against falls

University of South Australia elderly monitoring system
Researchers from Iraq and the University of South Australia have developed a sensor-based system to remotely monitor elderly people and provide urgent first aid via a drone if a fall occurs. (University of South Australia)

A research team from Iraq and the University of South Australia have developed a sensor-based system to remotely monitor elderly people, detecting abnormalities in their heart rate and temperature which can lead to falls, and provide urgent first aid via a drone if a fall occurs.

University of South Australia adjunct senior lecturer Dr. Ali Al-Naji and Professor Javaan Chahl are working with Dr. Sadik Kamel Gharghan and Saif Saad Fakhrulddin from Baghdad's Middle Technical University to develop an advanced fall detection and first aid system for the elderly. In a paper published in Sensors, 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 center if physiological abnormalities or a fall are detected.

"When a case is critical, first aid supplies can be delivered to the patient via a drone, up to 105 seconds faster than an ambulance," according to Professor 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."

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Also part of the system is a smartphone-based program that uses an intelligent autopilot containing a destination waypoint to plan a drone path, according to Dr. Gharghan.

The fall detection device comprises a microcontroller, two bio-sensors, a GPS module to track the location and a GSM module to 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.

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

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