Do you believe older adults at high fall risk would voluntarily wear a belt that would deploy cushioning air bags around the hips in the event of a fall? This Editor was initially skeptical reading the MedCityNews article on ActiveProtective‘s $2.6 million Seed 3 round raise. The belt, looking at their photo and the one on the ActiveProtective website (left above), looks like a hard and uncomfortable ring, which didn’t make much sense as the ring in a fall impact could itself create injury. There was also a brief mention of fall detection but not how they worked together.
But before nominating this as a Thanksgiving Fowl, this Editor wanted to Dig Deeper. In their press, this TEDMED video with founder/presenter Drew Lakatos, while originally from 2014, explained its workings far better. First, the ‘fall detection’ sensor data aren’t trying to confirm a fall–the algorithms are looking for the absence of stereotypical human motion to determine that a fall is happening. When that is detected, the airbags deploy, which takes about 60 milliseconds. Second, the airbags (below left) fall around the hip sides and rear, which is important as many falls are to the back. Their claim is that their device can reduce the impact force by 90 percent. The airbags in the belt use cold gas inflation which is less dramatic than automotive airbags, and it is equipped with a PERS using Bluetooth to alert for help.Philadelphia-based ActiveProtective earlier this year raised $2.4 million and a minority investment by Key Safety Systems (KSS), a developer of safety components for automotive and non-automotive products (KSS release). The device was originally developed by a former trauma surgeon at Temple University Hospital and St Mary Medical Center in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, Dr Robert Buckman. They intend to test on a large scale in two senior living communities. Potential uses for the technology, according to their website, are for fitness, equestrian and other sports, high-risk occupations, and the military.
WearableTechnologies.com also examines other airbag/protective products such as Hip-Hope, Wolk, Alpinestars, Hövding and Dainese.
Most of us are well acquainted with the disastrous statistics around hip fractures. Each year over 300,000 people over 65 are hospitalized for them, with more than 95 percent caused by falls, usually by falling sideways. Falls are also the most common reason of traumatic brain injury (CDC).