Europeans Advance Fall Detection

Medical alert systems (of infamous “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”) fame have another flaw besides tacky commercials. While they’re a well-proven advance over trying to reach for a phone,  they still depend on the fall victim being conscious enough to push a button.

In response, industry and academics are beginning to roll out sensor-based systems, such as the AutoAlert option for Philips’s Lifeline. As a traditional medical alert vendor is all too happy to point out, these solutions are expensive and not always reliable, even Philips admits to only 95% accuracy. Nevertheless, there’s a new contender in the space that may have the traditional systems re-thinking their sales strategy.

The EU-funded Vigi’Fall has just won the Gold Medal at the international inventor competition Concours Lépine for offering fall detection for anyone, even those so badly injured they can’t press a button. It’s more complicated than Philip’s product, because it requires wall-based sensors to detect movement. By contrast, the AutoAlert pendant itself monitors normal motion and acceleration, and so can detect an aberration, like the fast drop of a fall.

But Vigi’Fall offers one key advance: Instead of a pendant, which even Philips admits in the fine print, “can pose a strangulation risk,” Vigi’Fall is a patch that can be continuously worn, even in that fall trap, the shower. Vigi’Fall, which should also incorporate heart monitoring, is expected to be available for market at the end of 2014.

The Europeans have even managed to create an art film variant on “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”