Hip-protective airbags get another entrant from France. And fall prediction steps forward.

click to enlargeclick to enlargeCES served as the US debut (the first was at November’s Medica fair in Dusseldorf) for Fontaine-lès-Dijon, France-based Hip’Air. Hip’Air by Helite is a soft belt with hip-positioned airbags that triggers upon fall detection but before ground impact. It is designed to be worn outside the body (unlike conventional pads), is reusable, claims a 90 percent reduction in fall impact, with a battery charge that lasts for over one week. According to their website, it will debut in Europe this spring after testing in nursing homes for €650 (US$800, UK£570). Video on their website above and on CNet.

Our Readers are well acquainted with the toxic statistics around falls and hip fractures. The US CDC found that 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falls, usually sideways, they disproportionately affect women, and in the US they amount to about 300,000 per year. Hip’Air quotes their sources as 65,000 per year in France alone. NIH’s 2010 study found a 21 percent mortality rate after one year. Surgery/recuperation cost is around $30,000. Here is a largely avoidable cost.

In that context, it’s encouraging that Fort Washington, Pennsylvania-based ActiveProtective, which we profiled a year ago and received numerous Reader and company founder comments [TTA 10 Jan 17], is testing its belt-worn approach with Eskaton Village, an assisted living residence, in Carmichael near Sacramento California, and nearing a commercial debut. It is also based on sensors (3D) that sense a fall and deploy before impact in what they call ‘fall disambiguation’ and claims a comparable 90 percent impact reduction. It gained $4.7 million in Series A funding in December [TTA 19 Dec 17]. CBS 13 video. While Hip’Air is direct competition, albeit in Europe, more than one provider serves to convince funders and customer markets that the concept is valid.

Fall prediction is also stepping off the sidelines. Our earlier article covered four tech approaches that help to estimate and proactively act against falls [TTA 10 Jan]. Here’s another one from Spain, the FallSkip, which allows a physician or therapist to measure fall risk in under two minutes and in walking under 10 feet. Developed at Spain’s Universitat Politècnica de València, it consists of an Android-based mobile device Velcro-mounted on the back of a soft waistband for the patient which is worn during the walking test. The custom app provides and interprets motion readings to the doctor. New Atlas  YouTube videoHat tip to Toni Bunting 

To this Editor, advances in estimating fall risk are long overdue. Fall cushioning is too, and the less clunky but effective the better. But strength training is a needed adjunct, per the Dutch program. This physical training helps older adults and the disabled prevent falling and fall better, if they must. So what organizations in the US, UK, and EU are advocating this? There’s plenty of room for tech too. Not sexy or cocktail-party-buzzy at Silicon Valley parties, but a direct way to decrease cost and increase older/disabled quality of life.

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Comments

  1. Since their fall detection only works 75 percent of the time, as opposed to 100 percent with our Fall-Safe hip protectors, these are dangerous devices, especially as the inflation of the air bags tips the faller onto their head, see the video on the company’s website. The device obviously will not be worn in bed at night, a time when 40 percent of all falls occur. Why any company or individual would invest in this crazy and very expensive device beats me.
    As Einstein said, “The only things that are infinite are human stupidity and the universe, and I’m not sure about the universe”.

    • Donna Cusano

      William, your comment is appreciated, but the static and relatively thin pad supplied in your underwear has an acceptability and appearance problem for older and more active adults today outside of nighttime use. Your earlier comments and comment here can be interpreted as negative towards any innovation in the field, and that’s 1) unfortunate and 2) not the purpose of a news article.

      75 percent activation is not 20 percent, and perhaps better than Philips Auto-Alert PERS which has a similar problem in interpreting slump falls. It’s dependent on accelerometer and sensor tech and as that improves, these belts will improve. I’d also like to know about false positives (e.g. sitting quickly on a low seat, e.g. a couch) triggered by the sensors.

      It is valid to say that the airbag may tip the person wearing the belt towards their head, but that is the pattern for most falls. It’s also valid to check to see if this increases the incidence of broken arms that are extended to break a fall.

      We WANT those at risk of falls to 1) know their risk and 2) be more active because they will stay stronger–which is why I am an advocate of tech diagnostics, assistance, and physical training to build strength and train someone to take a fall more safely.

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