Falling? – There's An App For That (Shortly).

As we get older a big worry we have is falling over. When we’re young we bounce and a Bandaid and a hug is often sufficient to restore peace and harmony, but as we get past our three score years and ten falling can be a lot more serious. Our bones can get a lot more fragile and Hidalgo has set up a clinical trial to see if stuffing us full of vitamin D and calcium will make falling about less hazardous (1).

It seems that the future is looking brighter. Albert and his colleagues from Northwestern U have started to come up with an app for falling about (2). This means that we can fall about in private and our actions will be noted. By whom is not mentioned as this is a proof of principle and not a market opportunity (yet).

The idea is that our smartphones have accelerometers in them so that they know which way is up, which is a very fine thing when we are looking at websites, graphs etc. However, it is a relatively simple question to ask your smartphone which way up are you. Of course, if you’ve slipped quietly under the table through too much indulgence, you’re on your own.

If, on the other hand you take a tumble through no fault of your own except Father Time, your smartphone will know what you did – fall flat on your face, your backside or your right or left side. It is smart enough to call out the paramedics who will set you up to your neck in plaster provided that you have downloaded the appropriate App.

Your phone’s sensors gave excellent results with a group of 15 people who were asked to fall about wearing accelerometers and Android phones. No-one was hurt, but once the App is written, an ambulance can come charging to the rescue.

Now this may seem like a problem if a large number of binge drinkers download the app, but we should recall the stats. Half of the nursing home residents in the US fall over in a year with most of them falling over multiple times. Hips get fragile when you’re 75+ and hospitals are not your vacation choice. As a result many lives are blighted by a fear of falling and the consequences so an App for falling could be a winner.

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3267804/?tool=pubmed
  2. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0036556

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