Researchers at Purdue University have adapted a smartphone to measure an individual’s walking gait in order to prevent falls in those with compromised balance. The technology, which a news release from Purdue University states is being commercialized as SmartGait, is built to serve as a tool to assist healthcare officials in assessing an individual’s risk of falling and identifying ways to avoid injury.

In the release, Shirley Rietdyk, PhD, associate professor in Purdue University’s Department of Health and Kinesiology and a faculty associate with Purdue’s Center on Aging and the Life Course, explains a common challenge faced in fall prevention. “We know that people who are more likely to fall have slower gait speeds and variable stride time, step length, and step width. But it’s hard to gather that information in an everyday environment,” Rietdyk says.

The new SmartGait system is designed to capture gait length and gait width, according to Babak Ziaie, PhD, professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering.

See a video of the technology in action.

The release notes that the researchers adapted a conventional smartphone with a downward-looking, wide-angle lens and a special app engineered to allow the phone to record and calculate gait measurements. The smartphone is worn on the waist, and the system then records gait by measuring the distance between colored “foot markers” attached to the tip of each shoe. The researchers’ findings will appear in a paper to be presented during the International Society for Posture & Gait Research 2014 World Congress, June 29 to July 3, in Vancouver.

SmartGait’s performance mirrors a laboratory system that uses sensors and infrared-emitting diodes to measure gait, researchers explain.

Ziaie states that, “People can wear it walking upstairs, downstairs, outside, shopping, whatever they do during a normal day. We believe this device will be highly beneficial for researchers and clinicians who conduct gait assessments in the field.”

[Source: Purdue University]