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Sam Asano's Let's Invent: Continuing to work on a solution to falls

May 20. 2018 10:29PM

This week, we continue working on a solution that will help people receive assistance when they fall down by sending an alert.

Solution IV: What happens when a person falls?

A highly probable event would be that one’s feet are no longer bearing their weight. Therefore, if we install a weight-measuring instrument on both soles, a fall can be detected when the weight goes to zero or near zero. This is my solution. My approach is built into the shoe insoles made out of semi-soft sponge rubber as seen in the commercial shoe insert products by Dr. Scholl’s and Profoot.

Measuring the sole pressure on both feet probably is a sure-foot (no pun intended) way of detecting a fall more accurately than placing pressure sensors on any other part of the human body. One problem that needs to be addressed is what happens when the wearer decides to put her feet up on the desk. Also, if the wearer wants to drive a car or motorcycle, this would manifest as a similar problem. Meanwhile pedaling on a bicycle would cause no such issue.

If the wearer maintains a very tight shoelace, a fall detection by detecting the sole pressure going to zero may not work. Through our experiments and trials, we have not found any such case. Yet, we do still need to repeat the trials.

One of the fundamental problems is this: What if the wearer doesn’t wear the foot pressure detector (now called FallSafe)? This question can be thrown to all of the detectors, automatic or non-automatic, and the answer, of course, is if you don’t wear such an instrument, there is no way of detecting your fall.

This method offers two other outstanding advantages over the other solutions. The first one is the wearer needs to carry a cellphone loaded with our application, GPS data can be used to find the wearer’s exact location. This is uniquely advantageous as there are 5.7 million people living with Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, which predicts this number will rise to 14 million by 2050. Most of them — 5.5 million — are over age 65. The mother of a friend of mine went out to pick up a newspaper on her driveway, got disoriented, and was unable to get back to her house. She was found wandering the village aimlessly and eventually rescued on a very cold day. This solution would have found her through the GPS.

The second advantage is that this system can be used to measure the degree of the wearer’s balance impairment. There is no established standard on the balance impairment, and this system is the first to be able to classify the impairment.

Say BI (balance impairment) 1 to 5, 1 being the normal and 5 being the worst. The higher the number the person is likely to fall and fall badly.

Although this is not yet into a product, I have applied and received by the U.S. Patent Office a significant patent that eliminates the need to replace the rechargeable battery installed inside the insole.

Replacing rechargeable batteries is a hard task for the aging population when their eyesight and finger dexterity continue to go downhill. This patent eliminates the need to replace the battery.

Solution V: Implanted sensors

At some point in the future, we need to develop a fall detection implant in the human body. Although there are a few issues that lay ahead, the measurement itself might be relatively easy.

One problem that we do need to overcome is the issue of which battery to use.

According to Google, the latest lithium iodine battery of the size of 49mm x 46mm x 6mm would have an ample ampere-hour capacity of 2Ah, and this may last up to 10 years implanted as a pacemaker.

Now, the battery consumption behavior of implanted fall detection is something I cannot predict this week without having built one, so I have to say I do not know.

Again, from Google, the current worldwide population of pacemaker implants is about 3 million. Since the need to implant an automatic fall detector is much larger, this activity may become a highly contested competitive arena in the near future.

Since America spends $60 billion a year in attending to people’s falls, the 49 million current population of over 65-year-olds would require an expenditure of $5,000 per citizen to outfit a fall detector implant for everybody.

Since the 65-plus population would increase 1.8 million people per year, the incremental expense to outfit the population would be only $9 billion per year after that.

I am assuming that America would save a substantial amount of health care expense if all falls are reported automatically. Unfortunately, I cannot know the amount, and Google can’t help either.

Would some health expert reading this article help me?

The question is very simple. Currently we spend roughly $60 billion on the medical expenses per year in this country. That is because large percentages of falls are not immediately reported, and these patients spend substantial time in hospital and convalescence.

What if all falls were reported instantly and automatically. How much money would we save?

Wouldn’t we save a lot of money and tragedy?

Send in your response as well as your inventive ideas or problems you’d like to solve.

Next week’s column will feature your suggestions.

Shintaro “Sam” Asano of New Castle was named by MIT as one of the 10 most influential inventors of the 20th century. Write to him at


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