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03-13-2012

Clarkson University PT Profs Receive NIH Funding for Fall Sensors for Shoes

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/alarm.jpg .]

Two Clarkson University physical therapy professors have received funding from the National Institutes of Health for the development of an innovative fall sensor, which can be worn in the shoe.

Clarkson University Professor and Chair of Physical Therapy George D. Fulk (left) and Clinical Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Stacey L. Zeigler have received funding from the National Institutes of Health for the development of an innovative fall sensor, which can be worn in a shoe. Shown above is the sensor and a smartphone. The sensor consists of an insole that has pressure sensors and a small box, which houses an accelerometer, that clips on to the side of the shoe. Pressure and acceleration data are sent to a smartphone via Blue Tooth.Clarkson University Professor and Chair of Physical Therapy George D. Fulk and Clinical Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Stacey L. Zeigler will receive $94,884 from the NIH over two years for the Automatic Longitudinal Assessment Risk Monitor (ALARM) device, which will evaluate fall risk in real time during activities of daily living and identify the exact activities when fall risk for a specific individual is at its greatest point.

Video feature with Professors Fulk and Zeigler

While current balance assessment tools have proven effective for predicting fall risk, the tests are most commonly performed in a clinical environment and at isolated times during an individual’s day. 

The proposed Automatic Longitudinal Assessment Risk Monitor (ALARM) device will fill in the gaps in assessment by evaluating fall risk in real time during activities of daily living and identify the exact activities when fall risk for a specific individual is at its greatest point.

ALARM will be based on conventional footwear and require no extra effort to operate. It will also enable patient monitoring during an intervention, providing data on activity patterns, compliance with the prescribed exercise and evaluation of the intervention’s effectiveness.

“We anticipate that ALARM will find research, clinical and even consumer applications -- for example, as a preventative device for elderly,” says Fulk. “As the immediate focus, we envision that ALARM could be used as part of a community-based falls risk reduction and prevention program for use in rural communities that have limited access to healthcare providers

“Data collected by the shoe-based sensor will be able to identify behaviors and postures that may place the individual at risk of a fall and provide assessment of risk of falling comparable to that of commonly accepted clinical tests. This information could be reviewed by the individual’s physical therapist. The physical therapist would then develop a home-based exercise program designed specifically to improve postural control during the activities and postures that were identified through the shoe-based sensor as placing the individual at risk of a fall.”

ALARM is based on cutting edge technology, which in 2009 was recognized as Bluetooth Innovation of the Year. It utilizes miniature and lightweight sensors in one’s shoes to very accurately recognize postures and activities and estimate intensity of these activities.

The ALARM device consists of a small clip-on attached to the subject’s footwear. The clip-on contains a 3D accelerometer, a processor and storage, and Bluetooth wireless circuitry. A pressure-sensitive insole is connected to the clip-on device through a USB connector. In the future, all these components can be integrated into the user’s own shoes or insoles. The ALARM unit is small and lightweight – the same size and weight of a remote keyless entry device.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Clarkson University Professor and Chair of Physical Therapy George D. Fulk (left) and Clinical Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Stacey L. Zeigler have received funding from the National Institutes of Health for the development of an innovative fall sensor, which can be worn in a shoe. Shown above is the sensor and a smartphone. The sensor consists of an insole that has pressure sensors and a small box, which houses an accelerometer, that clips on to the side of the shoe. Pressure and acceleration data are sent to a smartphone via Blue Tooth.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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