Purdue startup commercializes portable gait measurement technology, begins new study

October 28, 2015  


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A health technology startup is commercializing a Purdue University innovation that could improve the ability to predict falls and discover new fall-prevention interventions in older adults and people with Parkinson's.

SmartGait was co-founded by Babak Ziaie, a professor in the Purdue School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, and Shirley Rietdyk, a professor in the Department of Health and Kinesiology at Purdue and a faculty associate with Purdue's Center on Aging and the Life Course. Justin Kim, a graduate student, and Albert Kim, a doctoral graduate, both in Purdue's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, helped develop the technology.

SmartGait's technology uses a conventional smartphone with a downward-looking wide-angle lens and a special application that allows a smartphone to record and calculate gait measurements, including step length and width. The smartphone is worn on the waist, and the system records a person's gait by measuring the distance between colored "foot markers" attached to the tip of each shoe.

SmartGait licensed the innovation through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization. More than 20 startups based on Purdue intellectual property were launched in the 2015 fiscal year. A video about this technology can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLXnTx6Rb6A

Rietdyk said that the unique portable nature of the device allows researchers to conduct on-site studies over a continuous period of time.

"Researchers can use other systems to measure gait,  but they are really expensive and bulky and are unable to complete field assessments, so longitudinal studies haven't been widely practiced, up until now," she said. "Using a smart phone makes it much easier to complete on-site studies, and our system allows gait measurements to be automatically uploaded to a HPPA-compliant Web server so we as well as other researchers can instantaneously track gait over time."

Over the next four months SmartGait will be conducting a study on older adults from University Place, a senior residential facility in West Lafayette, to further understand changes in gait patterns and detect health-associated changes.

"In order to walk, demands are placed on the cardiovascular, respiratory, cognitive, nervous and musculosketal systems. A change in gait is often associated with damage in one or more of these systems. Gait assessments can be considered to assess the vitality of an individual and can even be used to predict mortality," Rietdyk said. "By examining a larger group of people and assessing their gait at multiple time points, we believe we can improve the ability to detect fall risk and also readily assess the effectiveness of fall-prevention interventions, helping to improve overall health."

Researchers at SmartGait previously completed a paper, which was presented during the International Society for Posture and Gait Research 2014 World Congress. The technology was validated with GaitRite by CIR systems, a commonly-used clinical system.

"One of the most interesting things that we found from recent research is how texting and walking affects a person's gait. We were particularly interested in the observation that not only young adults, but middle-aged and older adults are also engaging in this risky behavior," Kim said. "In general, people adopt a more cautious gait when texting and walking, mainly by walking slower. We found that middle-aged adults adopted a similar behavior to young adults, so they're not at a greater risk of falling."

Ziaie said that in addition to research the company is constantly making improvements to the SmartGait device.

"SmartGait is also developing its post-processing system so that it has the capability to be accessed by anyone, anywhere in the world. We're also considering how our system can be used to provide biofeedback to patients, which will help health-care provider officials across the world," he said.

For information on other Purdue intellectual property ready for licensing and commercialization, visit http://www.otc-prf.org. For more information about available leadership positions, investing in a Purdue startup or licensing a Purdue innovation, visit http://www.purduefoundry.com.

About SmartGait LLC
SmartGait is commercializing a tool to aid health-care officials in assessing a person's risk of falling and identifying ways to avoid injury. The company has adapted a conventional smartphone with a downward-looking wide-angle lens and a special app that allows the phone to record and calculate gait measurements. 

About Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2014 Incubator Network of the Year by the National Business Incubation Association for its work in entrepreneurship. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at foundry@prf.org. For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at innovation@prf.org. 

Purdue Research Park contact: Hillary Henry, 765-588-3586, hkhenry@prf.org 

Sources: Shirley Rietdyk, 765-496-6703, srietdyk@purdue.edu

Babak Ziaie, 765-494-0725, bziaie@purdue.edu

Junyoung (Justin) Kim, kim302@purdue.edu  

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