05:51
TEDYouth 2014

Kenneth Shinozuka: My simple invention, designed to keep my grandfather safe

Filmed:

60% of people with dementia wander off, an issue that can prove hugely stressful for both patients and caregivers. In this charming talk, hear how teen inventor Kenneth Shinozuka came up with a novel solution to help his night-wandering grandfather and the aunt who looks after him ... and how he hopes to help others with Alzheimer's.

- Smart product inventor
Kenneth Shinozuka designs smart products ... He's been doing so since he was in kindergarten. Full bio

What's the fastest growing threat
to Americans' health?
00:12
Cancer? Heart attacks? Diabetes?
00:16
The answer is actually none of these;
00:19
it's Alzheimer's disease.
00:21
Every 67 seconds,
00:23
someone in the United States
is diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
00:25
As the number of Alzheimer's patients
triples by the year 2050,
00:28
caring for them, as well as
the rest of the aging population,
00:32
will become an overwhelming
societal challenge.
00:35
My family has experienced firsthand
00:38
the struggles of caring
for an Alzheimer's patient.
00:40
Growing up in a family
with three generations,
00:42
I've always been very close
to my grandfather.
00:45
When I was four years old,
00:47
my grandfather and I
were walking in a park in Japan
00:48
when he suddenly got lost.
00:51
It was one of the scariest moments
I've ever experienced in my life,
00:52
and it was also the first
instance that informed us
00:55
that my grandfather
had Alzheimer's disease.
00:58
Over the past 12 years,
his condition got worse and worse,
01:00
and his wandering in particular
caused my family a lot of stress.
01:04
My aunt, his primary caregiver,
01:07
really struggled to stay awake at night
to keep an eye on him,
01:09
and even then often failed
to catch him leaving the bed.
01:12
I became really concerned
about my aunt's well-being
01:15
as well as my grandfather's safety.
01:17
I searched extensively for a solution
that could help my family's problems,
01:19
but couldn't find one.
01:23
Then, one night about two years ago,
01:24
I was looking after my grandfather
and I saw him stepping out of the bed.
01:27
The moment his foot landed on the floor,
01:31
I thought, why don't I put
a pressure sensor on the heel of his foot?
01:33
Once he stepped onto the floor
and out of the bed,
01:36
the pressure sensor would detect an
increase in pressure caused by body weight
01:38
and then wirelessly send an audible alert
to the caregiver's smartphone.
01:42
That way, my aunt could sleep
much better at night
01:45
without having to worry
about my grandfather's wandering.
01:48
So now I'd like to perform
a demonstration of this sock.
01:51
Could I please have
my sock model on the stage?
01:57
Great.
02:00
So once the patient
steps onto the floor --
02:04
(Ringing) --
02:07
an alert is sent
to the caregiver's smartphone.
02:09
Thank you. (Applause)
02:16
Thank you, sock model.
02:18
So this is a drawing
of my preliminary design.
02:24
My desire to create
a sensor-based technology
02:27
perhaps stemmed from my lifelong love
for sensors and technology.
02:30
When I was six years old,
02:33
an elderly family friend
fell down in the bathroom
02:35
and suffered severe injuries.
02:37
I became concerned
about my own grandparents
02:39
and decided to invent
a smart bathroom system.
02:41
Motion sensors would be installed
inside the tiles of bathroom floors
02:43
to detect the falls of elderly patients
whenever they fell down in the bathroom.
02:47
Since I was only six years old at the time
02:51
and I hadn't graduated
from kindergarten yet,
02:53
I didn't have the necessary resources and
tools to translate my idea into reality,
02:55
but nonetheless, my research experience
03:00
really implanted in me a firm desire
to use sensors to help the elderly people.
03:02
I really believe that sensors can improve
the quality of life of the elderly.
03:06
When I laid out my plan, I realized
that I faced three main challenges:
03:12
first, creating a sensor;
03:16
second, designing a circuit;
03:18
and third, coding a smartphone app.
03:19
This made me realize that my project
was actually much harder to realize
03:21
than I initially had thought it to be.
03:24
First, I had to create a wearable sensor
that was thin and flexible enough
03:26
to be worn comfortably
on the bottom of the patient's foot.
03:30
After extensive research and testing
of different materials like rubber,
03:33
which I realized was too thick to be worn
snugly on the bottom of the foot,
03:36
I decided to print a film sensor
03:40
with electrically conductive
pressure-sensitive ink particles.
03:41
Once pressure is applied, the connectivity
between the particles increases.
03:44
Therefore, I could design a circuit
that would measure pressure
03:48
by measuring electrical resistance.
03:51
Next, I had to design
a wearable wireless circuit,
03:53
but wireless signal transmission
consumes lots of power
03:56
and requires heavy, bulky batteries.
03:59
Thankfully, I was able to find out
about the Bluetooth low energy technology,
04:01
which consumes very little power
and can be driven by a coin-sized battery.
04:04
This prevented the system
from dying in the middle of the night.
04:08
Lastly, I had to code a smartphone app
that would essentially transform
04:11
the care-giver's smartphone
into a remote monitor.
04:15
For this, I had to expand upon
my knowledge of coding with Java and XCode
04:17
and I also had to learn about how to code
for Bluetooth low energy devices
04:21
by watching YouTube tutorials
and reading various textbooks.
04:24
Integrating these components, I was able
to successfully create two prototypes,
04:29
one in which the sensor
is embedded inside a sock,
04:33
and another that's
a re-attachable sensor assembly
04:35
that can be adhered anywhere
that makes contact
04:37
with the bottom of the patient's foot.
04:39
I've tested the device on my grandfather
for about a year now,
04:41
and it's had a 100 percent success rate
04:44
in detecting the over 900
known cases of his wandering.
04:46
Last summer, I was able
to beta test my device
04:50
at several residential
care facilities in California,
04:53
and I'm currently incorporating
the feedback
04:55
to further improve the device
into a marketable product.
04:57
Testing the device on a number of patients
05:00
made me realize that I needed
to invent solutions
05:02
for people who didn't want
to wear socks to sleep at night.
05:05
So sensor data, collected
on a vast number of patients,
05:08
can be useful for improving patient care
05:11
and also leading to a cure
for the disease, possibly.
05:13
For example, I'm currently examining
05:16
correlations between the frequency
of a patient's nightly wandering
05:18
and his or her daily activities and diet.
05:21
One thing I'll never forget
is when my device first caught
05:25
my grandfather's wandering
out of bed at night.
05:28
At that moment, I was really struck
by the power of technology
05:30
to change lives for the better.
05:33
People living happily and healthfully --
05:36
that's the world that I imagine.
05:38
Thank you very much.
05:40
(Applause)
05:42

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About the Speaker:

Kenneth Shinozuka - Smart product inventor
Kenneth Shinozuka designs smart products ... He's been doing so since he was in kindergarten.

Why you should listen

When he was six years old, a family friend of Kenneth Shinozuka fell down in the bathroom. The friend was ok -- but the incident inspired him to design a motion detection system that could be embedded in bathroom tiles. He never actually made one in real life (remember, he was only six) ... but he was hooked on both the promise of invention and the potential of technology.

Since then, Shinozuka has designed smart devices for his grandfather, who has Alzheimer's disease. One invention that caught the eye of both the media and awards programs such as the Google Science Fair: a pair of smart socks, designed to send an alert to a caregiver if a patient gets out of bed. In 2014, he won the $50,000 Scientific American Science in Action Award, while he was also a 2014 Davidson Fellow.

More profile about the speaker
Kenneth Shinozuka | Speaker | TED.com