In September I visited the Nottingham Care Village, a local care home under development near me. Through talking with the staff, I soon realised that there are very few safeguards in place to ensure that when a resident goes to the bathroom alone, particularly at night, there will be a quick and effective response from the staff to a fall; my research showed that many products that try to solve this problem can be restrictive to residents, cause anxiety or require conscious interaction post-fall. My project tries to maintain the dignity of residents for as long as reasonably possible by enabling them to safely pursue going to the bathroom alone without the need for dedicated assistance or devices that may cause discomfort or anxiety, it also reduces the error associated with the resident having to trigger some sort of alert themselves.
Thus I have developed a proof-of-concept flooring that looks at the surface distribution patterns on the floor analyses them and sends the data to a separate terminal where an alert can be triggered. It does this by essentially counting the number of floor sensors triggered and displaying on a separate panel, whether the bathroom is safely occupied, empty or occupied with a fall (which sets off a siren too).
Key features of my project include the use of qualifiers in the BASIC programming which mean if multiple systems were used, the data being transmitted would not interfere with each another. There is a reset button on the transmitter panel, key switches are used on both the transmitter and receiver panels to show that only carers can turn the devices on and there is even has a low battery circuit (despite the fact in reality mains electricity would be used, this represents the feedback system necessary for ensuring that the system maintains full operational effectiveness).
The process I took from beyond the initial problem clarification involved firstly analysing similar products and methods for the various parts of my system, then I visited a second care home, Sycamore House in Nottingham, to consolidate my research done on CQC regulation. I progressed onto developing a specification and developing my electronics in protobloc form, which was in turn followed on by PCB development and case development. Finally, my project was evaluated visually by my client, the Nottingham Care Village and against the specification. A key issue in my project was developing a fall detecting floor. After looking into various sensors from QTC to strain gauges, I decided on using membrane switches (a simple switch button method used in old fashioned keyboards and calculators)- a method that is cheap to potentially manufacture industrially and that provides little tactile feedback. The membrane itself is made of a cheap, easily accessible material: laminate, like that used for posters.
I applied to the IPO in 2014 for a patent for my idea as I believe that my product has is marketable and has the potential to expand beyond care into other sectors. We have an ageing population, the market is ever expanding and as more care homes open up, they will want a USP to show residents’ families that the quality of care is very high and the organisation will do their best to protect their loved ones as well as provide for as much independence a possible. I firmly believe my product has a USP to care homes and that it will be successful in the future.