Necessity · Mother · Invention

Beginning March 2016 I put my generous Corelogic settlement package to work. A new home in Flagstaff with an enormous garage allowed me to spread out multiple projects and workbenches. These as well as a very welcome settlement from Volkswagen set me on a path that aligned my physics, software and EE knowledge with a longstanding interest and curiosity in smart devices and networks …
I began working on a device to alleviate the agony that some experience from restless legs syndrome. It would be a wearable item, very customizable and configured by a smart phone. The project proceeded successfully, yet before I had completed the prototype progress was interrupted when I discovered that this device wasn’t ideal for RLS. It worked to alleviate much of the frustration that comes with RLS, but it was only somewhat helpful and therefore not the solution I had hoped for. Instead, I discovered (almost randomly) that the same device almost completely eliminates the pain & discomfort related to sciatica while wearing it. I don’t have sciatica, but I tend to have a small ‘flare-up’ over a 4-8 hour period once every 4 years or so. As it happened a flare-up occurred while I was working on the device. Amazing to discover that it worked and worked extremely well!
For 2 years I worked on ideas I felt the need to act on: home automation & security, electronic devices related to audio and acoustics, automatic shock absorbers for bicycles.
Everything above led me to develop a fall-detection device for my 93 year old mother. She was falling a lot, and I wanted to help. Companies claiming to make such things had let my family down. No immediate notification of her falls. Inconsistent proprietary network uptime. Those devices aren’t meant to do what is needed: alert those nearby to ‘falling’ events and learn how a person moves to allow for fine tuning for fall prediction. To distinguish a fall from a ‘plop’ into a cushion seat or a pillow for instance. The device I created did all this. It connected via an app to the local network connected to audio systems in separate rooms. Announcements were customizable. It worked! I like to believe it kept her alive a bit longer. I’m certain it kept her out of the hospital which she’d been to twice for severe and life threatening falls in the prior 3-4 months.
I haven’t stopped thinking about the state of elder care worldwide. Homes and institutions rarely have systems that alert them to the time and place of catastrophic falls real time. Almost none of these places are willing to invest in systems that learn an individual’s movements well enough to determine a fall from a ‘plop’. Instead, the common practice is to first determine if there is no movement over a period of time *after* a fall.
This is on my mind daily. It’s the reason I’m no longer interested in writing software for the financial industry. I’m certain there will be better life improving devices available to a large number of people soon, and I believe it’s the well written software that will account for many improvements to people’s lives and health in the near future. The videos below show the results of many of my efforts and designs, but it’s the software that made each endeavor worthwhile and in many cases led to great successes.
– John