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Future Automation of Multi-Touch Floor From IBM

Future Automation of Multi-Touch Floor From IBM

Someday your floor could be the only security sensor you need for the home, if IBM moves ahead with a patent granted on March 20, “Securing premises using surfaced-based computing technology.”

The patent describes a multitouch floor that can determine who is in the house, and what they’re doing. The floor senses the shapes, weight and number of feet on the ground so it can distinguish between parents, kids, infants, pets … and unauthorized visitors.

From the patent:
The system takes different actions based upon identifying which object is in a particular location. For example, if the system senses that a small child is in an “off-limits” location, such as a swimming pool or hot tub area, the child’s caregiver can immediately be notified to prevent the child from getting hurt. Similarly, if the system senses that the family dog has entered an area that is off-limits, such as a living room or bedroom, actions can be taken accordingly. If the owner is home, the owner can be notified with an alert in order to remove the dog from the off-limits location. If no one is home, a high-pitched dog alarm can be sounded in order to have the dog retreat from the off-limits location.

Smart Floors and Eldercare

The smart floors also could determine the position and movement of the home’s occupants, which has tremendous implications for home health technology, aging in place and telemedicine. If a resident falls and does not get up in a certain amount of time, the floor – like any other security sensor – could send a message to the home alarm, home automation or PERS (personal emergency response system) device to alert a family member or monitoring station.

One problem with traditional PERS pendants and wearable fall-detection devices is that users take them off at night or before showering, and fail to put them on again.

According to one study, 70% of falls occur at night, yet 67% of users remove their PERS device before bedtime.

About one-third (30%) of users wear their PERS trigger some of the time, very occasionally, or not at all.

IBM patent describes multitouch floors for determining who is in the home and detecting falls and unauthorized activity
Today, floor mats and other pressure sensors may be used in certain areas of the home, for example under the mattress or near the toilet to detect restlessness or bathroom activities, but a smart floor could do so much more. It could determine if an elderly person’s pace is slowing, or if there is staggering — perfect for sometimes naughty teens.

RELATED: Going beyond PERS with smart home technology for the elderly

Speaking of naughty teens, any system can tell you if a grounded child leaves the premises, but it takes a smart floor to tell you if an “unregistered object,” like a banned boyfriend enters the residence.

Likewise, according to the patent, “when the parents are away, a group quantity threshold could be set to six individuals so that if the parents’ teenage children have a party with more than six individuals, an action (e.g., telephone the parents cell phone) can be taken alerting the parents of the party taking place at the residence.”

Implications for Home Automation

Much has been made today of proximity awareness, primarily based on Bluetooth devices like a cellphone that tell an audio system to play a user’s favorite music, or a security system that knows when the last family member has left the house (see, for example, the new smart thermostat technology from Alarm.com).

Inside the home, however, each family member may not be toting their phone, and of course the devices might be left behind when people leave the premises. If the door is left unlocked, the system could tell if an unauthorized person – an intruder – enters the home.

Also, a multitouch floor can determine definitively who is in what room of the home. So if junior takes a seat on the couch, a home-control system can automatically turn on the TV to his cartoons.

Forget about cameras and sensor arrays for gesture control. You might just swipe or tap the floor to adjust the music, TV or lighting controls. And gaming applications? Oh my!

Will IBM actually do anything with the patent?

According to MSNBC, IBM spokesman Christopher Andrews told InnovationNewsDaily, “The newly-patented invention is not part of a product or solution and we can’t speculate about if or how it will be implemented.”

About the Patent

No. 8,138,882
Inventors: Do; Lydia Mai (Research Triangle Park, NC), Grigsby; Travis M. (Austin, TX), Nesbitt; Pamela Ann (Ridgefield, CT), Seacat; Lisa Anne (San Francisco, CA)
Assignee: International Business Machines Corporation (Armonk, NY)
Filed: February 5, 2009
Granted: March 20, 2012

An approach is provided that that uses an electronic multi-touch floor covering that has numerous sensors to identify shapes. The electronic multi-touch floor covering identifies a shape of an object that is in contact with the surface of the electronic multi-touch floor covering. An entity record is then retrieved from a data store, such as a database, with the retrieved entity record corresponding to the identified shape. Actions are then retrieved from a second data store with the actions corresponding to the retrieved entity record. The retrieved actions are then executed by the computer system.

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