Old folks safe at home

University of Edinburgh researchers have developed an ‘intelligent flooring’ system that could be used to routinely monitor older people living alone.

The system, which comprises a set of underfloor piezoelectric sensors monitored by a microprocessor can activate an alarm when a person falls to the ground.

The system is able to pinpoint geometrically, on a computer-generated model of the floor, exactly where a footstep has landed, or where a person has fallen.

The system is even sensitive enough to detect changes in a fallen person’s heartbeat or breathing, making it possible, for example, to detect if someone has had stroke.

Professor Joe McGeough at the University’s School of Engineering and Electronics, who is developing the system with honorary fellow David Ross, said that unlike camera systems, the sensors are unobtrusive.

Better yet, because they monitor movements rather than visual images, they would enable fire crews to quickly locate people at risk in smoke-filled buildings.