One of the most rewarding applications for wearable gadgets isn’t finding out you burned a few extra calories, or being able to check your phone messages without picking up a handset, but in the medical field. There’s a whole host of devices that are revolutionising medical care through smart, wearables and one of them is the BalanSens, a balance assessing tool for the elderly or infirm.
Working like a much more accurate and advanced version of Nintendo’s Wii balance board, the BalanSense is a wireless belt that sits on the hips and gives an assessment based on the wearer’s centre of mass and weight distribution. Traditionally this task has been handled by force plates, which are very expensive. While Nintendo’s alternative is much cheaper, it doesn’t offer the accuracy of the BalanSense.
The belt system is very quick and simple to set up, requiring no specialised room or space and can give results in as little as five minutes. It also takes into consideration a lot of metrics, including any sway and if so, at what strength. It can even measure hip and ankle angles, something not possible on current force plate technology.
These readings generate automatic balance reports, which can be compared against a patient’s history, allowing for analysis after injury.
It all works thanks to two lightweight sensors built into a pair of valecro straps that wrap around the patient’s waist and calf. As they perform tasks, the sensors measure motion and movement data in real time, sending it to the accompanying software.
While there’s no mobile application at the moment, an Android app is in the works.
While force plate technology is still more expensive, the BalanSense is not cheap technology. As it stands, the sensor bands and software package will cost you (or more likely, the organisation you work for) $2,750 (£1600). If you just want the software, you can pick that up for $1,250 (£727).
While the cost of the BalanSense would be a problem for your average end user, this isn’t a product designed for home use. Organisations like hospitals and doctors could likely afford this without difficulty. The lack of applications at this time is a shame however, since many medical groups are moving to have staff equipped with tablets and wearable devices.
The BalanSense seems like a great idea and can take in a lot more data beyond that of force plates. I imagine that a combination of the two technologies could deliver even more accurate and worthwhile data.