HIC 2014: Wearable tags to track the elderly on the go

An RFID-based real-time location system that can pinpoint exactly where elderly people are in their homes and track their movements is one of four apps competing in the HISA Apps Challenge, to be announced at the Health Informatics Conference (HIC) in Melbourne tonight.

Designed by 14-year-old Melbourne student Dhruv Verma, the PROactive Technology for Elderly on the GO or PROTEGO app is a concept aimed at providing a cost-effective way of monitoring the elderly at home that can alert family or carers if the person has not moved or has potentially had a fall.

Dhruv has designed the real-time location system using RFID tags and wireless antennas as a cost-effective alternative to other systems such as wristbands or pendants, which elderly people are liable to take off or forget to wear.

The signals emitted by RFID tags are strong enough to be picked up by the antennas and are able to pinpoint the exact location of the person in the home in real time. “And it is cost effective,” Dhruv said. “The tag costs about eight dollars and the antennas cost eight or nine, and you can probably wire up the whole house for a few hundred dollars.”

There are other systems on the market that use sensors attached to everyday objects, such as teapots or fridge doors, but Dhruv's concept aims to be more exact by making the RFID tags wearable.

“My solution is an RFID tag as part of a self-adhesive waterproof patch,” he said. “I've got a prototype but my vision is to make the tag even smaller and use smaller button batteries so it can be applied comfortably onto the elderly person.

“The battery life is about six or seven months and the patch you would probably need to replace every two weeks. That can be done by a family member.”

The concept also involves an app for smartphones or tablets so family members have a view of the layout of the house and exactly where the older person is.

“It will be a dot showing the person that will be either green or red or orange,” Dhruv said. “Green will be he's all good and he's walking around the house. Red will be he has fallen down and he hasn't moved for a while, and orange will be he hasn't been moving for five minutes, and after that five minutes it will become red.

“There will be smarts with the software that will let you know if they haven't moved for a certain amount of time. That will alert you by a notification to your phone. On the phone will be a house plan of the house where it will tell you the accurate location of the elderly person currently, and also track their steps around the house in real time.”

He believes the concept will prove a superior alternative to GPS systems, which rely on the accuracy of satellites and are designed mainly to track a person outside the home, and stationary sensors that do not provide real-time information.

Dhruv is currently interested in hearing from app developers, universities or investors interested in furthering the concept. He can be contacted by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on Twitter at @dhruv_verma1.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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