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TI, Texas Tech to develop fall-prevention device
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This wireless sensor prototype could detect falls in geriatric patients and is small enough to clip on a belt.

Texas Tech University researchers and TI are working together to develop a device and software analytics to help with early detection and prevention of falls in the elderly and in people with balance disorders and diseases such as Parkinson's, dementia and epilepsy.

TI has key components in the fall-detection sensor that the team developed.

"We have tried all sorts of sensor placements, but Texas Instruments' low-power microcontrollers and wireless radio combined with a torso-mounted accelerometer and gyro − like an external pacemaker − gives the best results," said electrical engineering Professor Donald Lie, lead scientist on the project.

The device can be worn on a belt or on the back of a woman's bra and will wirelessly transmit an alarm to a care provider if the person falls.

The team hopes to identify conditions that occur before a fall to help warn people and prevent actual falls.

"We became interested in this project at Texas Tech, because it went beyond just fall detection but aspired to preventative measures," said TI Fellow Allen Bowling.

"By analyzing the dynamics of posture and gait — the way people are standing or walking before a fall — we hope to be able to send an alarm instructing them to grab hold of something or sit down before they fall."

Ultimately, the team hopes all the research will lead to an inexpensive commercial device that incorporates the best software analytics for early warning and even fall prevention for any patient with compromised balance.

"We believe that these projects will really make a significant difference in the clinical care of geriatric populations," Lie said.

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