Smart carpet prototype (via University of Manchester)
We have smart-cars, smartphones, smart-appliances, and if you were lucky enough you got to sit next to the smart-kid in school — but never have we thought of carpeting as being ‘smart’ in any way. Well that misnomer is over thanks to some clever scientists from the University of Manchester. The science team developed the carpet for hospitals, care-centers and home use as a way to analyze a person's walking patterns and be able to identify changes in their gait (steady deterioration) that could lead to crippling falls.
What lies underneath in the carpets underlay is what makes their design 'smart.' The team used optical-fibers that are laid-out just below the carpets surface. These fibers bend when walked upon and send the information (pressure and stride) to a computer through electronic sensors situated on the carpets edge. The computer then analyzes the information and creates a 2D map (similar to tomographic hospital scanners) of the individuals gait which care-givers can use as a tool for detecting health changes.
The scientists state that the carpet could also be used to alert medical personal in the immediate event of a fall, as well as being able to detect chemical spills or even fire akin to an early warning system of sorts. The team presented their smart-carpet at the recent Photon 12 (optics) conference in the UK, and where the team hopes to reduce the number of fall-related injuries (30-40%) suffered each year by persons 65 years of age or older. As to when the carpet will be available for the medical fields or commercially is unknown, but no longer will carpet just be an ordinary textile floor-covering that's walked upon without care.