A new fall detection system may be part of an “aging-in-place” solution for seniors.

University of Utah electrical engineers have created a system that uses a two-level array of radio-frequency sensors placed around the perimeter of a room at two heights. These would correspond to someone standing or lying down.

While there are many fall detection systems available, the new system, developed by Brad Mager and Neal Patwari, does not require a senior to wear a device. That’s an advantage because a senior can forget to wear the device, and because there can be a stigma around it, Patwari explained. 

He and Mager performed a series of experiments that measured the time that elapsed when a person fell, sat down or lay on the ground to determine a time threshold for detecting a fall. That data were put into algorithms that could realize whether the motion indicated a fall. Unlike video surveillance, their system only detects position and location, thus increasing privacy, Patwari said.

The goal is for seniors to have a reliable sensing system in their home, said Patwari, also an associate professor at the University of Utah, in an interview with McKnight’s.

 “This will, we believe, be one part of an aging-in-place solution, where a senior can live in their own home for as long as possible if they prefer it,” he said. “Hopefully, we can diminish the fear of falling and lying undetected for a long period of time, and the resulting negative health outcomes of waiting a long time for help.”

The engineers presented their system at the 24th Annual Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Symposium on Personal, Indoor and Mobile Radio Communications on Sept. 10 in London.

Patwari’s Utah-based startup company, Xandem Technology, plans to next make the product commercial. That is expected to happen in two to three years, he said.