from the February 2014 issue

The smart shoes that will prevent the elderly from falling

Not long after Dr. Yonatan Manor's father celebrated his 80th birthday, he began falling. Manor's wife presented him with a challenge: Invent something that could prevent his father from falling. Manor's initial reaction was that it couldn't be done, but he began to observe how his father moved around, how he stabilized himself when he lost his balance and how he sat.

Manor, who has a Ph.D. in chemistry, also began to observe the residents of a senior citizens' home. He realized he could see a pattern in the way elderly people get about - and in the way they fall. This was the start of B-Shoe Technologies.

B-Shoe is short for balancing shoe, which prevents elderly people from falling by moving one of their feet backwards when they lose balance. The product is in the testing stage.

Falls are a leading cause of mortal injury among seniors. In 2010, the direct cost of medical services for injuries caused by falls among persons aged 65 and over in the U.S. totaled $30 billion. The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia suspects this figure will nearly double, to $55 billion, in 2020, due to greater longevity and aging baby boomers.

The shoe knows
How does the B-Shoe work? Its sole has a system of sensors and an electro-mechanical mechanism that can move the shoe backward. An algorithm identifies the situation of the shoe wearer walking, sitting, standing. The sensors measure how the person's weight is distributed, and how the pressure between the front and back parts of the foot is distributed. The information is then processed by a microprocessor built into the shoe.

When the system detects that the center of the wearer's balance is suddenly being transferred behind his or her heels in the course of standing or walking very slowly, it goes into action. The mechanism, which is embedded in each shoe, helps the wearer to take the necessary backward step to prevent a fall.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report February 2014

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