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Washington DC Feb 15-19.

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Smart clothing -- coming soon to a store near you?

Not long ago I gave a presentation to a group of seniors about technology for aging in place. One question made me pause: "Why can't clothing help seniors be safer and more independent?"  Good question. And asked by many in university and corporate research programs. Let's pick a few -- and I am inviting comment posts with additional examples:

1) Last year Apple patented the term 'smart garments' enabling a gadget like an iPod to authenticate a connection to a smart garment, perhaps a shoe, indicating to the user 'the rate of wear of the shoe'. Unapproved garments (not a Nike shoe, perhaps), presumably cannot communicate with the device. This is available today in a Nike-iPod kit to transmit data from the sensor to an iPod to track runner data. Not yet targeting seniors, but Apple clearly saw an opportunity, hence the patent.

2) Also last year, research on the possibility of a human airbag to open in the event of a fall, which I commented on when the press ran with in numerous articles -- Prop is the Japanese company that is developing the airbag, targeting frail elderly, people with severe osteoporosis, and people with epilepsy -- at roughly $1000, inflates if falling backward, not for sale yet in the US or through a distributor I have found. Please advise if you know where to purchase.

3) Also last year, MIT researchers are using NASA research on balance to develop the iShoe, using technology that was originally developed to help astronauts with balance issues when they return from space. Erez Lieberman and others in a Harvard-MIT Health Sciences Program have applied for a patent, tested the product with 60 seniors, and OhioHealth released a statement in February 2009 saying the product would be available next year (2010) for $100, to be covered by most insurance: "Erez Lieberman’s iShoe contains pressure sensors, a built-in memory and a wireless Bluetooth radio that transmits the data to a laptop or mobile phone."

4) Announced this year with a prototype expected for later this year and possible release in 2010, the GPS shoe is intended for tracking individuals with Alzheimer's disease, a collaboration between GTX Corporation and Aetrex (a maker of orthopedic shoes), the GPS shoe is expected to retail for $200-300 and can be accompanied with a tracking service for $20/month. Noted elsewhere in this blog, there are other tracking devices for those with Alzheimer's, but this is actually a piece of clothing.

5) Halo Monitoring, maker of a wearable chest strap for fall detection, has developed a sports bra version that enables the chest strap to slide into the garment. When a fall is detected, the device transmits to a gateway that can either dial a telephone or use a broadband connection to reach a call center, which then contacts the senior, caregiver, and/or emergency services as appropriate. The pricing is a bit higher than other Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) devices -- but the key difference is that the wearer does not need to press a button to call for help.

Looking forward to others -- please post!

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