AT&T develops “smart slippers” for fall prevention

By: Brian Dolan | Dec 7, 2009        

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AT&T's Smart Slippers“These days, everybody is talking about medical care: Who gets it? Who pays for it? Who decides?” Robert Miller, executive director of technical research at AT&T, told the Star Ledger in a recent interview. Miller is a veteran of the wireless carrier’s research labs. “But few people are working on a technology solution that would lower costs and make medical care better at the same time.”

According to the Star Ledger report, AT&T’s scientists have been developing prototype connected health products for the past year, in an effort to make everyday household items “part of the network cloud.” As we reported earlier in the year, Miller and his team want to connect thermometers, scales, blood pressure cuffs and other “old technology” along with wireless radios to leverage WiFi networks and Bluetooth interoperability for connected medical devices.

That includes slippers.

Called “smart slippers,” they have pressure sensors embedded in their soles to transmit foot movement data over AT&T’s network. If something is amiss in an elderly patient’s gait, the device will alert a doctor via e-mail or text message, possibly preventing a fall and a costly trip to the emergency room, Miller said.

AT&T had announced a pilot this past May with Texas Instruments and start-up 24Eight to test the start-ups “smart inner soles.” While the Star Ledger report does not mention 24Eight, chances are that’s the technology powering the new consumer product prototype.

While AT&T would not comment on potential pricing models for “smart slippers” and similar products, Frost & Sullivan research analyst Zachary Bujnoch said costs can run up to $100 per month for each patient.

So, who pays?

New Jersey’s largest insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, told the Star Ledger that it does not cover telehealth services, but it is receptive to new technologies: “I like to think we are progressive on these things,” said Stan Harris, a pediatrician and senior medical director at Horizon. “But AT&T needs to show us that patients wearing those slippers had fewer accidents. We need clinical trials and other research objectives to prove the technology.”

Check out this video of an AT&T tech demonstrating smart slippers and other products:

Also, be sure to read the Star Ledger article