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BLACKPIN GmbH, with the support of ESA Technology Broker Germany, leveraged on a space technology to develop smart sensors that monitors the movement behaviour of bedridden patients and that can help revolutionise the care industry.

The care sector is affected by demographic change, but hospitals and facilities are unprepared for this new challenge. Although the number of people in need of care is rising, fewer people are opting to work in the nursing profession. At the same time, experienced staff are leaving the health care sector due to high stress levels. Consequently, people in need of care are increasingly cared for at home by their relatives, who lack expertise and the necessary technical support.

For bedridden patients, it is important that they are lying in the correct position and regularly repositioned by nursing staff to avoid pressure ulcers, a condition that mainly affects immobile, sick and elderly people. According to studies by the Robert Koch Institute, more than 400,000 people in Germany alone suffer from pressure sores requiring treatment every year. The incidence of these sores is likely to continue to rise in the coming years, as the number of chronically ill and immobile people increases, with life expectancy also growing. Pressure ulcers, once developed, are very stressful for sufferers as treatment is complex and expensive, and the healing process is lengthy.

Digitisation, BigData, sensor technology and measurement technology are playing an increasingly important role in transforming healthcare to improve the quality and efficiency of patient care and the overall health of our society. BLACKPIN is developing a mobile transaction platform in this area, which is based on mobile messaging for the B2B sector. The company’s digital solution will help to support the prediction, prevention, treatment and aftercare of symptoms and increase collaboration and exchange between the different medical health care professions. BLACKPIN’s novel and pioneering sensor system digitally integrates the movement behaviour of bedridden or sedentary patients, while meeting the highest medical safety standards.

Through the ESA technology transfer activities of EurA AG (part of ESA Technology Broker Germany), BLACKPIN turned to space for this technological solution, which they found with Kinotex’s Fiber Optical Sensor (FOS) technology. The prototype development of the bed sensor was initiated via ESA Spark Funding. FOS is an optical cavity sensor, developed by Canpolar East Inc. and patented by the Canadian Space Agency. Initially designed to detect collisions on the Canadarm2, this large robotic arm is used for assembly and transportation on the International Space Station (ISS).

The Kinotex sensor consists of a polymer foam and deformation of this foam generates an optical signal. The sensor’s sensitivity and compliance can be designed to meet a wide range of user requirements and can be manufactured in any shape. One of its main advantages is its robustness in adverse conditions, as it has had to operate in the radiation-rich vacuum of space and withstand extreme temperature fluctuations. This is something that many other tactile sensors, such as force-sensitive resistors, piezoelectric foams, or capacitive sensors, all of which use electrical signals, have great difficulty with.

The result is the groundbreaking bed sensor BOSFAL – Smart Bed-Occupant Sensor, a mat with evaluation electronics for assisted living in inpatient and outpatient care facilities and for people who are cared for at home. The FOS sensor, in the form of a flexible mat, is placed over the patient’s mattress. The sensor detects tiny deformations caused by the patient’s movements, enabling different use cases to be derived from movement behaviour during sleep or while awake.

The innovative mat presents the following advantages:

It is unaffected by wetness and humidity, with no short circuit possible at seams.

It is easy to clean, with a plain surface.

It has no electrical field and no effect on medical devices nearby.

It contains no metals.

It has intelligent connection for message transmission.

It is very small, with a large number of measuring fields.

By combining BOSFAL and the mobile collaboration app developed by BLACKPIN, there is a unique opportunity for collaboration between nurses, doctors and relatives in care, and for documentation and emergencies. This app is a highly secure, end-to-end encrypted, DSGVO compliant messenger, built on the new matrix chat protocol, which has been mandatory in the medical industry since January 2022. Smart sensor technology from space, combined with a highly secure digital collaboration app with IoT interfaces, is set to revolutionise the health care industry by monitoring the movement behaviour of bedridden patients.

Project participants: BLACKPIN GmbH, Kinotex GmbH and the Fraunhofer IWS. During the development period, the solution was comprehensively demonstrated with a pilot partner, an organisation comprising 16 nursing homes at 15 locations, with 1030 nursing places and 430 assisted living apartments for senior citizens.

This impressive model shows how space technologies can sustainably support and improve the wellbeing and health of people on earth.