Fall Detection Technology

Fall Detection Technology: The Promise of Fall Detection: Is it all it promises to be?

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Recently a few companies have introduced medical alert systems with fall detection technology built in to their wearable help buttons.

While this technology seems promising in cases where an individual falls and loses consciousness before pressing the help button, there are some limitations and concerns around this technology that should be understood before asking seniors to use fall detection products.

How Does Fall Detection Technology Work?

Fall detection technology is intended to notify the Command Center of a fall in the disastrous event that a help button user is knocked unconscious. It comes in three forms:

 

Acoustic

Visual

Sensory

How it works

Microphones detect and measure vibrations on the floor to identify a fall

Fixed cameras track and learn movement patterns

(Like a surveillance system)

Wearable sensor detects and analyzes movement

Weakness

Accuracy

Invasion of privacy

False positives, discomfort

Monitoring a person’s movement with accuracy of intent is not easy. Fall detection technology is reported to trigger what scientists call “false positives” – instances when the alarm is triggered but not by a fall. For example:

  • Lying still while taking a nap may cause the monitor to think that a fall has occurred.
  • Slight tripping or a similar jerky movement may cause the monitor to detect a false fall.
  • Vigorous exercise may confuse the monitoring device and cause the false alarm.

Who Benefits from a Fall Detection System?

Cell phones and notebook PCs have used gyroscopes and accelerometers for a few years to shut down a device in case it is dropped or knocked off a surface. However, use of fall detection technology in senior alert systems is relatively new and is still being perfected.

Active retirees who are in good health commonly cite two drawbacks of fall detection:

1. “It feels like I’m under surveillance.” Constant active monitoring by a device can feel confining, even though it is meant only to help.

2. “I’m embarrassed and inconvenienced by the false alarms.” Nobody wants 911 emergency services bursting through the door while they are exercising or taking a well-deserved nap.

For seniors who are in poor health and have a history of knock-out falls, fall detection may very well be worth the inconvenience.

Do I need a Fall Detection System?

The answer varies based on the odds of the following:

  • What is my risk of a fall in which I am knocked unconscious or unable to press a button? If your risk is low, the surveillance and inconvenience may feel like a nuisance compared to the benefit.
  • If I fall and am knocked out, what is the likelihood that someone will quickly help me? If you are likely to be helped quickly by a real person, a fall detection system may be redundant.
  • Would a POM (Peace of Mind) medical alert button cover me in most situations of a fall? Like most safety decisions, this is a judgment call. If you think our non-intrusive medical alert button would take care of you in most cases, why not try it out?