Italian researchers have developed a new wearable wireless sensor to monitor, detect and help prevent whether a person has suffered a fall.

The new technology, developed by a team of researchers at the University of Bologna in Italy as part of the EU funded SensAction-AAL project, consists of a wireless monitor work around the waist.

The device uses gyroscopes and accelerometers to sense an individual’s motion and position and detect any falls. The device can then trigger an alarm and issue an alert when someone falls, sending an alert to the emergency services, doctors or relatives using SMS and email messaging or by Bluetooth.

The Italian team have developed software that can detect falls where the person has been unable to get up, it therefore can be used by those who are more prone to stroke, heart attack or are suffering from other serious health conditions.

Lorenzo Chiari, a researcher for the project, said: “Falls in which a person does not get up, so called unrecovered falls, are usually a sign that they need immediate assistance.”

Chiari added: “But detecting them remotely is not easy. The main challenge is developing a software algorithm that can differentiate between an unrecovered fall and something less serious.”

The system can also be used to assist people undergoing rehabilitation programmes by encouraging them to perform prescribed exercises.

The system can use the sensors to monitor movement and then translate it back as signals, such as sounds and vibrations emitted via an audio headset or small vibrating actuators on different parts of the body.

Chiari added: “One application involves using the device as an MP3 player so the user can listen to their favourite music while exercising. If they move incorrectly the music will become distorted, change volume or tempo.”

The system has been piloted with people of sufferers of Parkinson’s disease at three different sites in the Netherlands, Germany and Israel, where according to the research team, users have been overwhelmingly positive in their evaluation.

The device is currently being commercialised, however the consortium is interested in finding investment partners so tat they can conduct more extensive clinical trial to develop a full commercial system.