IBM Patent: Multitouch Floor Detects Heart Attacks, Intruders

The next big thing in security, home automation and digital health technology could be IBM’s multitouch floor that detects family members, falls, intruders and other activity.

IBM Patent: Multitouch Floor Detects Heart Attacks, Intruders
IBM patent for multitouch floors describes smart-home technology that can detect intruders, proximity, and falls, for example in the case of a heart attack.
Julie Jacobson · April 9, 2012

Someday your floor could be the only security sensor you need for the home, if IBM moves ahead with a patent granted on March 20, “Securing premises using surfaced-based computing technology.”

The patent describes a multitouch floor that can determine who is in the house, and what they’re doing. The floor senses the shapes, weight and number of feet on the ground so it can distinguish between parents, kids, infants, pets … and unauthorized visitors.

From the patent:

The system takes different actions based upon identifying which object is in a particular location. For example, if the system senses that a small child is in an “off-limits” location, such as a swimming pool or hot tub area, the child’s caregiver can immediately be notified to prevent the child from getting hurt. Similarly, if the system senses that the family dog has entered an area that is off-limits, such as a living room or bedroom, actions can be taken accordingly. If the owner is home, the owner can be notified with an alert in order to remove the dog from the off-limits location. If no one is home, a high-pitched dog alarm can be sounded in order to have the dog retreat from the off-limits location.

Smart Floors and Eldercare

The smart floors also could determine the position and movement of the home’s occupants, which has tremendous implications for home health technology, aging in place and telemedicine. If a resident falls and does not get up in a certain amount of time, the floor – like any other security sensor – could send a message to the home alarm, home automation or PERS (personal emergency response system) device to alert a family member or monitoring station.

One problem with traditional PERS pendants and wearable fall-detection devices is that users take them off at night or before showering, and fail to put them on again.

According to one study, 70% of falls occur at night, yet 67% of users remove their PERS device before bedtime.

About one-third (30%) of users wear their PERS trigger some of the time, very occasionally, or not at all.


IBM patent describes multitouch floors for determining who is in the home and detecting falls and unauthorized activity

Today, floor mats and other pressure sensors may be used in certain areas of the home, for example under the mattress or near the toilet to detect restlessness or bathroom activities, but a smart floor could do so much more. It could determine if an elderly person’s pace is slowing, or if there is staggering—perfect for sometimes naughty teens.

RELATED: Going beyond PERS with smart home technology for the elderly

Speaking of naughty teens, any system can tell you if a grounded child leaves the premises, but it takes a smart floor to tell you if an “unregistered object,” like a banned boyfriend enters the residence.

Likewise, according to the patent, “when the parents are away, a group quantity threshold could be set to six individuals so that if the parents’ teenage children have a party with more than six individuals, an action (e.g., telephone the parents cell phone) can be taken alerting the parents of the party taking place at the residence.”

  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

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  Article Topics

Security · News · IBM · Patent · PERS · All Topics
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