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Tango Belt: The wearable smart belt

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Tango Belt

“Falls among older adults are the number one cause of injury-related deaths in the US in that age demographic,” says ActiveProtective CEO, Wamis Singhatat.

“This costs the US healthcare system $50 billion a year. It’s a massive problem.”

ActiveProtective is addressing that problem with Tango Belt – a wearable smart belt that uses airbag technology to cushion the wearer from a fall.

The belt was conceived by retired trauma surgeon, Dr Robert Buckman of Temple University School of Medicine.

Dr Buckman spent most of his career working in the inner-city, where he spent his days treating injuries like knifings, gunshots and car accidents.

A move to the suburbs brought with it a change of pace and countless older patients ‘falling down, breaking their hips and fighting for their lives day in and day out.’

Singhatat says:

“Dr Buckman took automotive-grade technologies that had existed for decades and have saved millions of lives and then applied them to a wearable.

“In the 10 years after he came up with the concept, two really important things happened within the industry.

“One was the iPhone, which came out in 2007 and started this whole wave of sensor miniaturisation and consumerisation, enabling so many IoT and wearable-based technologies.

“The second was cold gas airbags.

“Automotive makers began putting these all over cars: under the dashboard, on the side, coming out of seatbelts and deploying close to the body.

“Those two technologies really underpinned the Tango Belt concept.”

The belt is worn around the waist of high-risk older adults.

If the belt detects a certain kind of motion during a fall, it deploys the airbags over the hips to protect the wearer prior to impact.

The algorithm, which took years to develop, can accurately detect when the wearer is experiencing a serious impacting fall likely to lead to a major hip injury.

 Singhatat says:

“Three really big randomised trials were published in the past three years: the STRIDE trial, the SPRINT trial and the Pre-FIT trial.

“Interestingly, what those trials found is that the current standard of care is pretty good at screening for fall risk factors.

Some of them have actually shown a moderate reduction in falls, but none of them were able to show a reduction in fall injury rates.

”So, we believe that there’s really solid, sound evidence now that establishes that you can’t prevent serious fall injuries among older adults with the existing approaches.

“You really have to shift the mindset to accepting that these falls are going to happen and take a harm reduction approach.”

Building on this approach is the companion app and in-built fear of falling survey.

This is an excerpt from our Special Report: Falls Management – Innovations for an Ageing Population

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