Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

RCSI School of Physiotherapy awarded SFI funding for footwear sensor research

21 May 2010

Potential benefits for fall-prevention in the elderly and sports performance in athletes

Researchers from the RCSI School of Physiotherapy in collaboration with Dublin Institute of Technology School of Electronic & Communications Engineering have received funding from Science Foundation Ireland to develop the first ever wireless footwear sensor system.

The research will enable the development of a wide range of innovative applications in the medical, occupational and leisure sectors.  Among these, it is anticipated that new wireless sensor devices could reduce health service costs for fall-prone patients and will offer in-depth analysis of sporting performance.

Pictured (L-R) are Professor Brian Harvey, RCSI Director of Research; Dr Frances Horgan, Senior Lecturer, RCSI; Dr Tony Betts, DIT; Professor Frank Gannon, Director General, SFI; Mr Batt O’Keefe, TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation; Ms Louise Keating, Lecturer, RCSI; Dr Max Ammann, DIT.

Until now footwear sensors used to measure aspects of movement required the wearer to carry a data monitoring box around their waist.  This put limitations on the ability to analyse high-speed movement such as running and people’s natural movement in the community, such as elderly people in their own homes.

The project ‘Footwear Telemetry Antennas for the Next Generation of Body-Centric Sensor Networks’ is funded under the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Principal Investigator Programme. The project was one of 27 pioneering projects announced by Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Batt O’Keeffe, TD.

The research team is led by Dr Max Ammann, Dublin Institute of Technology and is a partnership with Dr Frances Horgan and Ms Louise Keating at the School of Physiotherapy, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

The 5-year research project with funding of over €0.5 million will address antenna engineering issues and the physiological requirements to minimise the antenna influences on a user’s natural gait, balance or stride.

The outcomes should allow new intelligent footwear systems to integrate wirelessly with body area networks. DIT and RCSI will collaborate on advanced computer modelling and laboratory measurements to understand and optimise footwear antenna performances. The research team will make use of DIT’s antenna facilities the RCSI physiotherapy movement analysis laboratory.