Evaluation of accelerometer-based fall detection algorithms on real-world falls.

Department of Electronics, Computer Science and Systems, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.73). 01/2012; 7(5):e37062. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037062
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Despite extensive preventive efforts, falls continue to be a major source of morbidity and mortality among elderly. Real-time detection of falls and their urgent communication to a telecare center may enable rapid medical assistance, thus increasing the sense of security of the elderly and reducing some of the negative consequences of falls. Many different approaches have been explored to automatically detect a fall using inertial sensors. Although previously published algorithms report high sensitivity (SE) and high specificity (SP), they have usually been tested on simulated falls performed by healthy volunteers. We recently collected acceleration data during a number of real-world falls among a patient population with a high-fall-risk as part of the SensAction-AAL European project. The aim of the present study is to benchmark the performance of thirteen published fall-detection algorithms when they are applied to the database of 29 real-world falls. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first systematic comparison of fall detection algorithms tested on real-world falls. We found that the SP average of the thirteen algorithms, was (mean ± std) 83.0% ± 30.3% (maximum value = 98%). The SE was considerably lower (SE = 57.0% ± 27.3%, maximum value = 82.8%), much lower than the values obtained on simulated falls. The number of false alarms generated by the algorithms during 1-day monitoring of three representative fallers ranged from 3 to 85. The factors that affect the performance of the published algorithms, when they are applied to the real-world falls, are also discussed. These findings indicate the importance of testing fall-detection algorithms in real-life conditions in order to produce more effective automated alarm systems with higher acceptance. Further, the present results support the idea that a large, shared real-world fall database could, potentially, provide an enhanced understanding of the fall process and the information needed to design and evaluate a high-performance fall detector.

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