Innovation That Matters

Sensor-equipped flooring can tell if someone's fallen


Germany's Future-Shape has developed SensFloor, a textile that senses the activity that's happening on top of it.

We don’t typically think of concrete slabs as anything but dumb pieces of rock, but in the past we’ve seen innovators integrate technology into sidewalks to help them offer up energy and even wifi to pedestrians. Now Germany’s Future-Shape has developed SensFloor, a textile for use indoors that senses the activity that’s happening on top of it.

Although only 2mm thick, SensFloor contains 32 sensors and four RFId modules in each 1-meter-squared piece. The technology is designed to be installed underneath PVC, carpet or laminate flooring in order to turn large surfaces into pressure and motion-detecting devices. When someone walks over a sensor, that module changes its capacitance. By mapping activity over each of its many sensors, the system can differentiate between someone standing or lying down, as well as which direction they’re walking in.

The technology has wide range of applications. It could be used to turn a light on when someone steps out of bed, automatically open a door when they walk towards it — but not past it — or detect if a patient has had a fall in a hospital or nursing home. According to Fast Company, the product won’t hit the market for another few years, but will come with a range of software when it does. Are there other ways buildings could be made smarter to change the way we interact with the spaces we inhabit?



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