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Drones, smartphones and sensors: lifelines for the elderly

Photo Credit: University of South Australia

Technologies such as drones, smartphones and sensors could provide a lifeline to the world’s growing elderly population, who are at risk of falls, thereby helping cut global hospital costs.

According to a recent press release, a team of researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA) and Iraq had designed a new system that will remotely monitor elderly people.

UniSA 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.

The system will detect abnormalities in their heart rate and temperature, which can lead to falls. In addition, it will provide urgent first aid via a drone if a fall occurs.

How the system works

The researchers describe how a wearable device can monitor vital signs using a wireless sensor attached to the upper arm.

It can then send a message to an emergency call centre if physiological abnormalities or a fall 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.

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

The team had also designed an advanced smartphone-based program that uses an intelligent autopilot, containing a destination waypoint for planning the path of a drone.

The fall detection device consists of 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.

A brief background

It is estimated that around 30% 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, for instance, the annual cost exceeds AU$ 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% of injury-related deaths and 1% of total deaths in people aged over 65 years.

OpenGov Asia had recently reported on Hotline app for the elderly in Singapore.

The app is an upgrade on Careline, a hotline launched by the Changi General Hospital in 2016 to serve elderly Singaporeans living alone.

It is a 24-hour telephone befriender service for elderly citizens has been extremely helpful thus far.

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