Technology reaches Canes bluetooth GPS gyroscopes ultrasounds to improve the lives of Parkinson's, Alzheimer's or blind patients: The cane is one of the oldest gadgets in the history of mankind, and thousands of years later it has not lost its validity. Even so, technology can add very useful features to it.

Several Spanish entrepreneurs have launched projects that use technologies such as gyroscopes, accelerometers, bluetooth, GPS or infrared to create "smart sticks" with which to help alleviate some of the difficulties of people. for people suffering from diseases such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, and for blind people

Some of these projects are finished products, with an industrial manufacturing development with which they are already selling their first units; in other cases, devices that still require a boost to make the leap to serial manufacturing.

Technology reaches Canes bluetooth GPS gyroscopes ultrasounds

The experience of a disability in its own flesh, or the proximity to the disease by a family member or an acquaintance is what has led its creators to investigate in this area, as explained to Business Insider Spain two creators of "smart sticks" intended for different uses, both finalists of the awards for Social Innovation of the Mapfre Foundation.

Pauto, a cane that hides a whole technological network

One of these smart sticks is Pauto, which in what looks like a normal stick with a pocket in the handle hides a technological framework that includes a GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, bluetooth connection and a SIM card. Its purpose is to collect information from those who use it to detect symptoms associated with diseases such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's and alert the caregiver or family member.

"Under the guise of a normal cane we have a resource for collecting data relating to symptoms, user location, fall detection and an emergency button. What we get is that this information goes to a database accessible to the caregiver and when there is a relevant event the system launches an SMS message to the caregivers 'mobile, so the patient has more security when going out on the street", explains to Business Insider Spain Marián García, head of the Asturian social enterprise i4life.

García, PhD in Industrial Engineering and full professor at the Polytechnic Higher School of Engineering of the University of Oviedo, crossed paths with Parkinson after a family member fell ill. "When I went to neurologist consultations I was surprised that there was nothing technology, it could be an XVIII century consultation," he recalls. From this he discovered that around this disease there were "many things to solve that were feasible".

One of the main applications of guideline is to prevent frostbite, a problem that Parkinson's patients —even the youngest-suffer from the temporary loss of procedural memory that allows them to walk. "Suddenly they forget to walk, their feet are stuck to the ground and it is impossible for them to resume walking," explains García.

Many people who suffer from this disease solve the freezing of walking by placing in their homes lines of electrical tape glued to the ground, allowing their mind to give the order to step on the line to overcome this blockage and walk again. But outside of the usual environments or on the street, that solution becomes difficult when a patient is alone and suffers one of these episodes.

"In that case, the cane produces a line on the ground with a laser and gives a vibration in the grip, which helps the body to walk again," assures the architect of this product.

Pauto, which takes its name from a leprechaun to the asturian mythology in charge of removing the obstacles of his protégé, was conceived for the párkinson, and alzheimer's, but experts also recommend it for people who have suffered a stroke or suffer from different types of dementias, as well as the functionality to retrieve the fly offers a great amount of possibilities for the caregiver, through all the technology that's been installed.

i4life has already sold more than 300 smart sticks, most of them in Spain, but they are also receiving interest in the product in the United Kingdom and the United States. Based in Gijón, the company collaborates with two factories in the Basque Country and Catalonia to create Pauto, and has other devices: a connected glucometer for diabetics and a device that measures oxygen saturation and heart rate, designed for people with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), a chronic respiratory disease.

Egara, a complement to the traditional cane to avoid collisions to the blind

People with visual impairments have a fundamental element in the cane to detect obstacles when moving through cities, but Antonio Alarcón found one of its limitations: finding those impediments to walking that are not level with the ground, but appear above the waist, such as an awning or a branch of a tree.

Alarcón discovered this situation when advanced glaucoma caused him to lose 90% of his visual field. He joined the National Organization of the Blind (Eleven), where they helped him adapt to his new situation and received the white cane, as it is called the one used by the blind.

"When I was doing the adaptation courses —I measure 1.90 meters -, I hit my head with a ladder. And I asked, if there is an awning or a branch of a tree, how do I detect it? There is no way. When I commented on it to several acquaintances, it struck us all that there was no system. Everything that had been done was very complex, with radars, lasers, what they do is complicate life, " Alarcón tells Business Insider Spain.

By then this engineer was already working at the company ilicitana Instead Technologies, specialized in rehabilitation robots for people who have suffered a stroke, and together with his colleagues they sought more mature technologies that could detect obstacles without making it difficult for the blind to walk. His solution was ultrasound.

"By mixing the ultrasound with a gyroscope, we launched a handle that can be incorporated into any aluminum cane, which warns of obstacles by a vibration," explains Alarcón.

Its name, Egara, comes from the chair of research Bidons Egara of the Miguel Hernández University of Elche (Alicante), dedicated to the research of retinosis pigmentaria and other visual pathologies, which takes the name of the company of drums and containers set up by Joaquín López, patron of the chair. Instead Tecnhnologies is precisely a university spinoff that starts from this same university.

They have five functional prototypes, but they have not obtained the funding to create a mold with which to manufacture the handle parts in series. "We are looking for investors to bring out a line of 250 canes to sell, because manufacturing one by one is impossible", admits the architect of this modality of smart canes, which faces the challenge of production to be able to reach a potential market of more than 285 million people with visual disabilities around the planet.

Technology reaches Canes bluetooth GPS gyroscopes ultrasounds

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