The EU-funded IEGLO project, developing sat-nav-based aids for the elderly, Alzheimer's sufferers and other at-risk groups, drew public and media attention at this year's Intersana trade fair in Augsburg, Germany.
There are approximately 4 million people living with Alzheimer's disease in Europe today, many of them at constant risk of becoming lost or disoriented. Other individuals, for various reasons, also need around-the-clock support and supervision by either family members or professional carers.
The IEGLO project, funded by the EU's Seventh Research Framework Programme, has developed a user-friendly mobile satellite navigation-based device that features complementary redundant positioning sensors and allows continuous determination of a user's position in real time.
Combining a number of location technologies for both indoor and outdoor monitoring, including GPS, WLAN and Radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems, IEGLO takes advantage of the augmentation of EGNOS through EDAS to achieve better tracking performance, and will benefit from the increased accuracy delivered by the Galileo system once it comes on line. And the new device incorporates a set of intelligent inertial sensors that can be used to detect and even anticipate distress or sudden collapse, based on bodily movements.
The system transmits information about supervised individuals via secure communication channels to a web-based service centre where monitors display position data. The system can be set according to personalised monitoring parameters such as permitted and no-go areas ('geofencing') and will send automated alarms in case of trouble.
Positive market potential
Project coordinator Jürgen Seybold of Austria's TCA says recent reports in the media about elderly people becoming lost have kept the problem in the public eye. "Just in recent days we've heard about two cases in our area where old people have disappeared, become lost and turned up later after searches were instigated. One of them, unfortunately, was found dead. So there is a clear need here."
Today's monitoring systems rely on fixed, home-based telephone calling schemes, he explains, but once the person has left their home, they are immediately invisible to these types of systems.
Seybold says his group's contacts with health and monitoring service providers have been very promising. "These services are now actively looking for a better way. For example, we have had some initial meetings with Red Cross services just in the region where our company is located and this has led us to believe that there is indeed a huge potential market for our system."
Fixed-line patient monitoring and call services typically cover limited areas that will include about 4000 patients. In Germany and Austria there are at least 40 000 individuals now being monitored in this way. Across Europe, the potential beneficiaries of new and better monitoring methods number in the millions.
Working prototype in spotlight
The IEGLO project, which also received this year's 'Austrian Champions in European Research' award, has been widely covered by Europe's German-speaking media, including in newspapers and on television.
During the Intersana event, the IEGLO project demonstrated a number of prototypes, one of which is based on the HTC touch diamond smartphone. Visitors watched as real-time location data was displayed for the exhibition hall itself, and the movements of a target individual were monitored with a high level of precision.
Intersana is the leading German-language healthcare trade event. In 2008, Intersana saw about 300 exhibitors and 22 000 visitors. The 2009 edition, which took place in Augsburg on 23-25 October, drew similar numbers, including many media representatives.
In June 2009, the IEGLO consortium registered the 'MODIS' trademark for its new system (Mobilitätsdienste für Senioren – Mobility Services for Senior Citizens) in Germany and Austria.
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