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Wearable Technology Insights
Posted on April 1, 2016 by  & 

Wearable airbags for injury prevention

ActiveProtective was founded on the belief that hip fractures among older adults, and their consequences, could be prevented through the use of wearable technology. This is why they are developing a wearable airbag that deploys in the event of a fall to protect the wearer's hip bones.
Dr. Robert F. Buckman spent much of his career as Professor of Trauma at Temple University, and running one of the busiest trauma centers in Pennsylvania. Upon becoming Director of Trauma at St. Mary's hospital in Langhorne, PA, he became acutely aware of the shift in age demographic of his patient population, the types of injuries sustained, and quickly identified the most devastating ones. It was there that he recognized an enormous, solvable healthcare crisis facing Emergency Centers throughout the world - it is the frail, independent elderly falling down and breaking their hips, and the subsequent fight of their lives to recover from that fall injury.
ActiveProtective first determined fall-risk factors, in order to identify those patients at a 15% or greater statistical probability of breaking their hip and then developed a methodology using 3D motion sensors to determine the stereotypical motions and accelerations that govern our normal, daily activities, in order to determine 'departures' from what is allowable. This simple-to-understand technique, called "fall disambiguation", allowed them determine falls with unprecedented accuracy. It allows ActiveProtective to determine falls prior to impact, giving the ability to intervene by deploying their micro-airbag protection.
The airbag is designed to be worn like a belt and when its onboard 3D motion sensors detect atypical motion that's unique to falling, it uses a cold gas inflator, similar to those used in cars, to deploy an airbag that runs down the sides of the hips. Fall-in-progress technology deploys airbag protection around the hip, immediately prior to impact, in order to reduce hip impact, automatically and within a fraction of a second. The team say they have demonstrated the ability to reduce impact force by 90% with their garments.
The wearable airbags can protect elderly at long-term-care facilities, during post-operative rehabilitation at home, as well as any patient with a greater than 15% probability of breaking their hip.
Future applications of the technology could be found in sports, high-risk occupations and the military.
Source: ActiveProtective
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