At the Mobile World Congress 2013, Fujitsu demonstrated a New Generation Smart Cane that can aid elders, specially-challenged, or even hikers in several ways. For starters, it can direct them properly to a programmed location by displaying arrows on the handle. It can monitor their heart rate, and environmental conditions. What is more, the associated Web application can be used to monitor the path that they take—to make sure they are always watched by their loved ones.
Inside: The Smart Cane is equipped with Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity. The contoured handle is made of glossy plastic, and kind of bulges on the top, where information is displayed using an array of LEDs. When none of the digital features are in use, all the lights disappear and the cane looks quite casual!
An accompanying app allows the caregiver to program some common locations using a PC or smartphone. Thereafter, when the user walks with the smart cane, it flashes a green arrow if the direction is right. If the user takes a wrong turn, it alerts using vibrations and red signs.
It then guides them back to the right direction using green arrows. GPS and cellular connectivity allows the user’s walking path to be tracked using a Web application. A smart little step counter takes note of the number of times the stick is tapped! There is also a heart rate monitor built near the handle; and when the user presses a thumb on the sensor, it displays the heart rate on the handle, and also shares this information with caregivers. The smart cane also has built-in sensors that measure the temperature and humidity of the environment. This information is used to judge whether the user is comfortable. In case of any discomfort, the caregiver can remotely reprogram the smart cane to guide the user to a cooler or warmer place, or back to the home or hospital. The smart cane is battery-powered—and at present the prototype has a rather low battery life of 2-3 hours. This is likely to be improved in the final product.