Current data acquisition systems that could be made to fit rollators do not meet certain requirements that are essential to building an effective system. The main issue with using equipment tailor made for collecting data is the cost. The final cost for a system that could measure the required forces on a rollator would most likely be several thousand dollars. It also limits the availability of these systems for academic research, which is essential for better rollator design. Furthermore, these systems are often large, bulky, and impede the motion of the user of the rollator, which completely changes how the user interacts with the rollator.
By developing a system that can measure a user’s guidance of a rollator and is cost efficient, lightweight, small, and transparent to the user of the rollator, vital data can be gathered about how the elderly interact with rollators. This data can be used to advance the design of current rollators on the market and can also be used in an electromechanical rollator that can provide many beneficial features for the user.
The objective of this research project is to design a relatively low cost data acquisition system that can assist researchers in better understanding how the elderly and disabled interact with current rollators in the market. By designing a system that can monitor how users interact with a rollator, in terms of the forces applied, a better understanding of effective rollator design can be developed.
Summary of findings
From market research done by Sentry Scientific, two popular brand of rollators were found to be in use in the Kitchener- Waterloo area, the Evolution Xpresso Lite series and the Dana Dogulas neXus rollator. The Evolution Xpresso Lite series of rollators were decided as the best rollators to outfit with the data acquisition system. Strain gauges were evaluated as the best option to measure the weight force on the rollator, as they were relatively low cost, highly accurate with proper installation, and very small in size. Strain gauges were also used to measure the turning force for the rollator. Capacitive sensors were added to the rollators so a user’s grip around the rollator handle could be sensed and certain features in an electromechanical rollator could be engaged. Once the sensors were fixed, the circuitry to process the signals from the sensors had to be designed. An Arduino UNO microcontroller board and XBee was the chosen method to transmit data to a PC.
This research project made clear that a major issue for the elderly in today’s society is mobility and the lost of mobility often has dramatic consequences. The loss of mobility also entails a greater safety risk due to falling, which can be devastating for the elderly and disabled. The current solution for improving mobility for senior citizens are mechanical rollators but with recent strides in technology, particularly electromechanical systems, much better solutions can be brought to the rollator market by manufacturers. Better rollators would be able to reduce falls and injuries, increase comfort, and increase the mobility of their users.