Falls account for 62 per cent of all fatal injuries to people aged 65 and over and the resulting burden on NHS resources and time is high. Women have a higher risk of hip fracture following a fall. Patients' recovery is slow or only partial with a hip replacement not always possible. Existing products to protect joints are cumbersome, stigmatising and undesirable.
A full-body wearable system akin to thermal underwear with embedded sensors that monitor muscle movement and balance, collect data and give feedback. The In-Balance System provides the wearer with an extra level of awareness about their movements, warns of risky situations, empowering them to continue their exercise programme with confidence.
The In-Balance system focuses on preventative rehabilitation or 'prehab'. Worn next to the skin, sensors at key points within the garment monitor muscle movement, balance and posture. The basic Phase One System warns people with muscular or balance deterioration of sudden or risky movements and prompts them to correct them or simply slow down. Phase Two augments this with additional muscle sensors and data logging to provide analysis and feedback. It focuses awareness on the control of muscle groups around which a health professional has devised their exercise programme. The Advanced Stage Three System for athletes provides complete body movement sensing to enhance their training, isolate muscle groups and analyse their gait.
A lightweight watch-style cuff collects the data and provides immediate visual feedback on their movements while simple visual alerts communicate how well they are managing to ignite specific muscle groups or manage their posture. The diagnostic unit can also be worn as a pendant. If the wearer requires more detailed feedback, an analysis hub gathers data for a detailed record of performance which can be reviewed by health professionals or coaches. The garments are made of lightweight cotton mixed with Lycra to provide contact for the sensors but without feeling restrictive. Tracks linking the sensors are woven into the fabric and they can be removed to allow the garment to be laundered. The modularity of the sensors means that the specific needs of a wide range of user requirements can be met efficiently.
The jury applauded the impeccable and wide-ranging level of research that the team conducted to understand why and how people fall. They came up with a stylish and innovative product that uses technology as an enabler rather than a barrier and would be attractive to large numbers of those most at risk.