The Case for Passive Detection Devices

Many companies wanting to get into the aging-at-home monitoring space make the mistake of relying solely on passive infrared (PIR) motion sensors and wearable personal emergency response systems, such as call pendants, to provide room presence detection and patient safety for their monitoring platform. While similar devices have a long and proven history in the home security monitoring space, they are not adequate to provide meaningful protection to elderly patients at risk for falls in their home. For this age group, every single fall event is potentially life threatening.

PIR sensors are great for detecting whether or not movement is occurring somewhere within its viewing space, but it cannot provide the granularity to detect the presence of a person at a specific location within that space. For patients with pets, the PIR sensor may not reliably discern between movement of the patient and movement of the pet. Furthermore, because they only detect motion, PIRs cannot distinguish between a person standing still and a person lying motionless on the floor, and can provide false positives from sunlight, bright light sources, or sudden temperature changes within the environment. Some PIR sensors do not work well in areas where the ambient air temperature is elevated, such as a steamy shower room.

As a workaround for these PIR shortcomings, a wearable personal emergency response system may seem like an attractive method for providing a means for the patient to receive medical attention during a fall event. Unfortunately, these types of devices have a low percentage of patient compliance for reasons such as: the patient forgetting to keep the device charged, the patient forgetting to wear the device at all times, or the patient not wanting to wear a medical device at all. Also, even if the patient is wearing a functional device at the time of a fall, the patient may not be able to activate the device due to being unconscious, not being able to push the button well enough due to arthritis, the patient forgetting they are wearing the device, having the device swing into an unreachable position to the patient’s backside during the fall event, or the patient deciding not to trigger the device during the fall event.

To address this, Telehealth Sensors has developed a line of pressure activated passive detection devices to be used in conjunction with standard PIR motion sensors and call pendants. These devices can be placed on furniture such as chair cushions and under bed mattresses, and communicate with the monitoring platform wirelessly via Telehealth Sensors’ Smartbox, a battery powered transmitter which can be programmed to operate on any platform’s specific wireless protocol.

These devices provide a monitoring platform with reliable presence detection at the places within a home most used by the patient. With this extra level of presence detection, a platform can more intelligently determine if a period of no motion detection anywhere within the home is cause for alarm, or simply that the patient is, for example, resting on their favorite recliner chair. With these devices, a platform can be set up to alert a caregiver when the patient has spent too much time at a given location. This can be critical for patients who need to maintain a level of activity throughout their day. The devices can also be used by a platform for trending activity data which may reveal subtle changes to a person’s daily routine. These changes can be indicators of their changing health. This knowledge can help caregivers intervene early before any deterioration in health becomes serious. Telehealth Sensors’ pressure activated passive detection devices provide a more complete level of safety and health monitoring not found in PIR sensors and call pendants alone.

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