Health & Wellbeing

Gait-analyzing wearable sensors could save users a visit to the clinic

Gait-analyzing wearable sensor...
Like other gait-analysis systems, MANA 2.0 could be used to diagnose sports injuries and neurological conditions, or to assess the risk of falling in the elderly
Like other gait-analysis systems, MANA 2.0 could be used to diagnose sports injuries and neurological conditions, or to assess the risk of falling in the elderly
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Dr. Boyd Anderson with the MANA 2.0 system
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Dr. Boyd Anderson with the MANA 2.0 system
Like other gait-analysis systems, MANA 2.0 could be used to diagnose sports injuries and neurological conditions, or to assess the risk of falling in the elderly
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Like other gait-analysis systems, MANA 2.0 could be used to diagnose sports injuries and neurological conditions, or to assess the risk of falling in the elderly

Presently, in order to get a detailed analysis of their walking gait, patients have to travel to a clinic where they walk on a pressure-sensitive mat. That could be about to change, though, thanks to a new wearable system.

First of all, there are already wearable gait-analysis technologies that incorporate an inertial measurement unit (IMU), which combines an accelerometer and a gyroscope. In most cases, though, such setups are limited to providing data on acceleration, and the rate at which the feet rotate.

Led by Dr. Boyd Anderson, scientists at the National University of Singapore have developed an experimental system that provides significantly more information.

It's called MANA 2.0, and it incorporates four shoe-mounted modules (two on each foot) that combine both IMU and ultra-wideband radio (UWB) sensors. As the patient goes about their daily business, data is transmitted from these to an internet-accessible app on a paired smartphone.

Dr. Boyd Anderson with the MANA 2.0 system
Dr. Boyd Anderson with the MANA 2.0 system

Anderson tells us that the UWB tech allows for time-of-flight ranging, which in turn provides information on how far apart the feet are from one another while walking. More specifically, it measures heel-to-heel, toe-to-heel, and toe-to-toe distances. Previously, such data could only be gathered by walking on a clinic-based mat.

In a real-world test, the new system was used to obtain a dataset of over 2,000 steps from 21 healthy volunteers. As compared to the "gold standard" mat technology, it was found to be an average of 97.2 percent accurate at measuring step width, and between 95 and 97 percent accurate at spatial foot placement measurements.

As an added bonus, MANA 2.0 should be a lot cheaper than the mats – while it's estimated that the former will be worth about US$500 a set, the latter can cost over $10,000 each.

"This [technology] will empower patients to make their own gait measurements anytime and anywhere without requiring the physical supervision of a clinician," says Anderson. "A MANA 2.0-enabled wearable for gait analysis will also allow clinicians to monitor the progress of their patients remotely through the data collected on the mobile application. With the growing demand for healthcare services, such a portable technology reduces the need for physical space and manpower in the clinics while making gait assessments more efficient at the same time."

Source: National University of Singapore

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