Application of force and inertial sensors to monitor gait on legacy walkers

Vitor Viegas, José Miguel Dias Pereira, Octavian Postolache, Pedro Silva Girão


Walker assistive devices play an important role in extending the autonomy of elderly people and in recovering the mobility of people affected by locomotion disabilities. The next generation of walkers are hoped to include embedded sensors and data processing capabilities that will allow for the extraction of objective metrics (about gait and body posture) to assist the work of physiotherapists and to enable the self-control nature of walker usage. The paper presents the Andante, our latest proposal of a smart walker intended to monitor and analyze gait in real time. The system makes use of e-textile electrodes to sense the heart rate of the user, load cells to measure the forces applied on the walker legs, and an inertial measurement unit to sense motion and orientation. These signals are sampled locally and transferred over a Bluetooth link to a remote host, where they are processed in real time. Data processing includes the detection, classification, and characterization of the steps. A rich set of parameters is presented for each step, including estimates of balance and motor coordination, step length and azimuth, and lift of the walker frame. This information can be used by physiotherapist to objectively assess the physical condition of the user and tune rehabilitation therapy if needed. The proposed solution can be easily integrated into any commercial walker without any loss of functionality.

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