Project Title: Pressure Sore Monitoring
Company Name: LC Seating, Co. Sligo
LC Seating ltd is a medical supplier company based in Grange, Co. Sligo. The company specialises in the provision of all types of custom made seating including carved foam, moulded toilet and shower seats, matrix, hybrid and modular.
Problem to be solved
Sitting in one position for long periods can push up the risk of developing pressure sores. So a collaboration between WiSAR Lab at LYIT and LC Seating developed a wireless alert system using “smart fabrics” that can signal wheelchair users and carers when it is time for their position to change. The problem addressed is that once pressure sores start they are very difficult to deal with, so prevention is the main thing. It is understood that if people are regularly moved then the pressure does not build up. Therefore, the idea was to develop a ‘smart cushion’ that can detect and monitor the pressure and then send wireless alerts to a monitor. The system, designed for a large care home or hospital, includes a real-time reporting tool allowing the carer to monitor and analyse each patient with individual alerts.
Key to the approach taken was smart fabrics that change their electrical properties when stretched providing a signal which can be processed. WiSAR performed extensive research into the identification of suitable pressure sensor fabrics, which were then tested for accuracy and repeatability. A prototype was developed consisting of a pressure-sensing mat, wireless data acquisition unit and a wireless base station. The pressure-sensing mat and data acquisition unit were incorporated into an existing LC Seating wheelchair cushion enabling pressure measurements to be wirelessly streamed to the base station.
The developed prototype can be used as either a pressure monitoring system or a visual pressure mapping system, each system using matching software.
One of the most important aspects of the development is that, since the system’s sensing element is fabric, it doesn’t affect the user’s comfort or the performance of the cushion giving it real potential for adoption. Further development is required to commercialise the system but ultimately the hope is that the smart fabric on a cushion will track the duration of inactivity and send movement alerts, via the cloud, to a carer or the person themselves.
This project was partly funded by an Enterprise Ireland Innovation Partnership. Luke Conway, CEO of LC Seating, is seeking collaboration partners to commercialise the prototype.