Monitor for In-Seat Activity

Technology #7244

Background: Sitting for long periods of time with little movement can cause a variety of health issues. One of the most common situations that comes to mind are individuals who are wheelchair bound, either permanently or temporarily, and can be susceptible to pressure ulcers. These ulcers can have critical effects in all aspects of life and lead to reduced mobility, longer unemployment, increased risk for future ulcers, and premature death. Another common occurrence are blood clots that can occur while traveling, when the body is sedentary and immobile for long periods of time. Fortunately these situations can be prevented through regularly shifting one’s weight, and when surveyed, participants indicated they felt an app that notified them of when they needed to move would allow preventive behavior mechanisms to avoid these health risks.

Technology: This technology is a combination of hardware and software components capable of monitoring and communicating the everyday sitting behavior for the user. The hardware consists of a force-sensing mat and a data logger that has been tested beneath a wheelchair cushion, which will store and transmit date for 30 days. Researchers were able to develop an algorithm to determine small and large position changes for the user. The invention is accompanied by a phone application that allows users to receive and react to feedback in real-time from the sensors, alerting them on how and when to shift their weight according to pre-set goals.

Potential Commercial Applications:

  • This has use for both wheelchair users and mobility researchers; researchers who are interested in studying movement could use this sensor to collect data on participants in a more accurate way than self-reports.
  • The technology could be utilized in hospitals for wheelchair users or hospital beds as well as nursing homes, where users might be unable to shift themselves and the app would notify a caretaker or nurse.  
  • Future use could also involve utilization in airplanes as well as cars, to notify passengers when they should move and re-distribute weight from their current sitting position.

Benefits/ Advantages:

  • Potentially assist with ailment prevention
  • Allows for wheelchair cushions to operate as designed
  • Researchers can conduct studies on seat movement with more accurate data than self-reports
  • The application provides immediate feedback


James S. Martin- Senior Research Engineer- Acoustics / DynamicsSharon  

Eve Sonenblum- Senior Research Engineer- Rehabilitation Engineering and Applied Research

Stephen Sprigle- Professor- School of Industrial Design