Even a single fall can seriously impact a senior – both physically and mentally – so it's best if such accidents can be kept from occurring in the first place. A new wrist-worn sensor, developed by scientists at Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), has been designed for just such a purpose.

Ordinarily, a senior's risk of falling is assessed via tests conducted at geriatric hospitals, or through self-kept "fall diaries." Led by electrical engineer Tomislav Pozaic, the KIT team wanted to create a technology that allowed for fall-risk-assessment to be conducted out in the real world, and which could provide that assessment before even one fall had occurred.

The resulting prototype utilizes motion sensors to evaluate the number and type of steps that the user takes while walking, their stability while standing still, and their arm/leg coordination. It additionally takes their location into account, as Poziac notes that "Different surroundings such as a road versus your own home lead to different risks."

A custom algorithm on an accompanying smartphone app subsequently analyzes the sensor data, determining whether or not the user is at risk of falling. If they are, strategies such as balance training, changes in medication, or minimization of fall risks around the home can be implemented.

The system was developed through a clinical trial involving patients at Stuttgart's Robert Bosch Hospital, and is now being commercialized via a collaboration between KIT and Bosch Healthcare Solutions. It is hoped that the device will be available for use within a few years.