Fujitsu invest €3m in Dundalk-based research project

Sensor technology project aims to prevent falls among elderly

Regina Moran, CEO, Fujitsu Ireland; Minister for Innovation  Richard Bruton ,and Tatsuo Tomita, President, Fujitsu Laboratories  announce  sensor based healthcare project

Regina Moran, CEO, Fujitsu Ireland; Minister for Innovation Richard Bruton ,and Tatsuo Tomita, President, Fujitsu Laboratories announce sensor based healthcare project

 

Áine McMahon

Preventing falls among elderly people is among the aims of a new research project involving sensor technology. The three year project is being majority funded by Fujitsu, which are investing in the region of €3 million into the venture.

The study, a collaboration between three Irish research groups and Fujitsu will begin with an analysis of fall risks, but will move on in subsequent years to examine and gain a better understanding of other risk factors for the elderly, such as chronic lung disease.

The multi disciplinary team will be complemented by leading Irish medical consultants including Dr Dermot Power, Geronotrologist at the Mater Hospital. Under the project, 20 pilot participants aged over 65 will wear small wireless sensors called Shimmer sensors which will be attached to their clothing that monitor biological, physical and social aspects of their environment. Sensors are also being placed in the homes of the participants to track their movement, sleeping patterns and other metrics.

By monitoring the patients remotely in this way, the researchers hope to be able to detect when they face a heightened physiological risk of experiencing falls. It would allow medical experts to intervene and prescribe appropriate treatments and fall prevention programmes to reduce the risk to the patients and the cost of resulting treatment.One in every three people over 65 falls each year, and the risk increases with age. A quarter of those over 65 who do fall, end up requiring hospitalisation, while falls can also lead to a loss of independence. The cause of falls include stability, mobility, vision and blood pressure problems.

The Centre for Affective Solutions for Ambient Living Awareness (CASALA), based at the Dundalk Institute of Technology, is leading the research, using its connections to the Great Northern Haven development, which consists of 16 apartments in Dundalk, Co Louth containing special sensor and assisted living technology to help the residents.

Julie Doyle, Principal Investigator at Casala says the main aim of the project is to come up with a model of taking in central data from someone and applying it to any area of health research.

“For researches it’s important to find out why older people are falling. People are coming into fall centres who are scoring high on the normal physical tests but are still having a fall. This project will allow us to determine what is causing the fall and try to get the person to self manage their health and well being.”

The other two research groups involved are the independent living technology research body, TRIL, and CLARITY, the Science Foundation Ireland funded centre for sensor web technologies.