A pressure sensitive cane will be able to measure the user’s rehabilitation progress through remote gait analysis.
A simple walking stick used by patients with mobility issues is about to get smarter. A team of engineers from the Embedded Systems Engineering Group of the University of Malaga, in collaboration with ESS-H Profile at Mälardalens University (Sweden) have designed a new smart cane to help assess users’ rehabilitation progress. The cane is fitted with two pressure sensors which track every step taken, and the amount of weight that a user exerts on it. The information is transferred to user’s smartphone via Bluetooth, and then sent to the therapist’s computer. With the help of special algorithms, it is determined whether the user is still heavily reliant on the cane or able to walk without support.
The engineers enlisted the help of 10 elderly volunteers who required a cane for everyday mobility and presented different disabilities. Volunteers were asked to complete the 10m test, and later asked to move freely for an extra minute. The research team measured the load peaks on the cane, corresponding to maximum support instants during the gait cycle. A chronometer was used to calculate the gait speed. Results showed that the cane continuously monitored the weight placed on it. Additionally, the battery could be used for a longer time without re-charging, and the pressure applied on the cane correlated with the user’s gait speed.
In the report published in the open-access journal, Sensors, the researchers mentioned that their aim was to provide a low-cost device which can provide long-term load monitoring. The cost of the device is below €100 which is reportedly cheaper than similar pressure-sensing canes. The team’s future work will focus on improving the module design and extracting more information from gathered data.