News ID: 130631
Published: 1125 GMT November 10, 2015

Smart help for phone users

Smart help for phone users

The elderly may find that using a smart phone is difficult and incomprehensible, while the disabled may encounter problems because phone operation requires delicate motor functions. But one inventor saw no reason for it to be this way and has found a solution to the problem.

His invention is a smart phone case equipped with physical buttons, as well as an app that offers an emergency help function. The application can be installed on most Android devices, Science Daily reported.

Because the buttons are ergonomically designed in a concaved shape, they are easier to press even for those who may have trembling hands. And the alarm function provides a greater level of security for all those who don't have a security alarm. It automatically sends an SMS with a GPS location to the owner's next of kin. If the next of kin don't respond, a manned emergency helpdesk is contacted automatically.

The inventor Richard Chan is now getting assistance from SINTEF researchers to test and further develop the technology.

I got the idea when my elderly mother back in England suffered a series of serious strokes", says Richard, who currently lives in Norway. "It was expensive to call, and her disability made it impossible for her to communicate using Skype, even though she had all her faculties", he says.

Later, after his mother had lain helpless on the floor for five hours having suffered a fall, Richard, who is trained as a telecommunications engineer, began racking his brains in search of a solution. He started to design the invention that has since been given the name EziSmart.

Sadly, his mother has now passed away, but the product she inspired is now seeing light of day. After many years of development, Richard has now produced a finished prototype in line with universal design requirements.

"Of course I was excited to see if the product would be accepted by potential users", he says.

"So when I got to know a man who has Parkinson's syndrome, and who suffers from intense shaking and stiffness, I let him have a go with the case. After only two minutes he could call and compose messages — something which previously had been impossible for him with the touch screen", says Richard.

So this summer Richard approached SINTEF in order to take his invention that extra step further.

"This was an idea that grabbed our attention at once", says researcher and Project Manager Hanne Opsahl Austad at SINTEF ICT.

"We all know that smart phones make communication with the outside world very easy, and that this enhances our quality of life. This is especially true for people who can't get out as much as others. So the EziSmart idea is what we call welfare technology", she says.

As a result, SINTEF, in consultation with the inventor, took on the job of applying for research funds via the Norwegian Regional Research Fund system. And they got a positive response.


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