A nurse, a psychologist, three chemical engineers and four electrical engineers walk into a lab. When they walk out, they’ve created a new product that could drastically improve the safety and comfort of our elderly population.
It’s… a carpet? An interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Manchester has designed a “smart carpet” that can detect when someone has fallen down, recognize when a stranger is afoot, or even sense the presence of fire or unsafe chemicals.
Here’s how it works: The bottom of the carpet contains plastic optical fibers equipped with electronic sensors that send information to a computer. When someone walks across the rug, these fibers mold to his or her feet and a pressure map of his or her walking pattern is created. Once a person’s regular walking behavior is fully mapped out, the carpet can tell when minor variations occur or when something is really off–in other words, when there might be cause for concern.
For elderly individuals who live alone, the carpet innovation could enable quick emergency responses to accidents, break-ins and other dangers. When released, the technology may be installed in hospital wards and nursing homes, in addition to being retrofitted for individual homes.