Currently, in order to perform a detailed analysis of their walking gait, patients must go to the clinic and walk on pressure pads. However, this may change due to the emergence of a new wearable system. First, wearable gait analysis technology is available in conjunction with the Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), which combines accelerometers and gyroscopes. In most cases, however, this setting is limited to providing data on acceleration and foot rotation speed.
Led by Dr Boyd Anderson, scientists at the National University of Singapore have developed an experimental system that can provide more information. Dubbed MANA 2.0, it combines four shoe modules (two on each foot) with IMU and ultra-broadband radio (UWB) sensors. As patients do their daily work, data is transferred from these modules to an Internet-accessable app on the paired smartphone.
Anderson says UWB technology enables flight-time range measurement, which in turn provides information about the distance between feet and feet when walking. More specifically, it measures the distance from the heel to the heel, to the toe. Previously, this data could only be collected by walking on a mat in a clinic.
In practical tests, the new system was used to obtain a 2,000-step dataset of 21 healthy volunteers. Compared to the “gold standard” mat technology, the researchers found that it measured the stench with an average accuracy rate of 97.2% and a 95% to 97% accuracy in measuring the spatial position of the foot.
As an added bonus, MANA 2.0 should be much cheaper than a mat – the former is estimated to be worth about $500 each, while the latter could cost more than $10,000 each.
“This (technology) will enable patients to take their gait measurements anytime, anywhere without the need for physical supervision from clinicians,” Anderson said. “The gait analysis wearables that support MANA 2.0 will also enable clinicians to remotely monitor patient progress with data collected by mobile applications. As the demand for medical services continues to grow, such portable technologies reduce the need for physical space and manpower in clinics, while also making gait assessment more efficient. “