Smart floors aren’t exactly a new idea, but thanks to a German company by the name of Future Shape, they might soon become easy and affordable enough that they’re within reach for average consumers.
The company’s technology –dubbed SensFloor– is basically an uber-thin, sensor-studded textile designed to be installed underneath your carpet. Each square meter of the fabric is imbedded with sensors that measure capacitance — changes to the local electric field that occur when a person (or any other conductive object) touches it. To communicate the activity of these sensors, the fabric also sports an array of radio modules that transfer the collected data to a control module, where activity can be monitored and analyzed in real time. And amazingly, somehow all of this tech is tucked inside a material that’s only two millimeters thick.
Obviously, this tech has dozens of potential applications, but to start, Future Shape is focusing on using Sensfloor to monitor elderly people who live alone and run the risk of falling down. For example, the company recently installed it in a nursing home in Alsace, France, where over 70 different rooms were monitored. Whenever SensFloor detected that someone had fallen down, the nurses station was immediately called for help. And that’s just one potential use. Future Shape has barely scratched the surface of what’s possible so far.
Since SensFloor is equipped with radios, it could ostensibly be used as part of a next-gen home automation setup. Imagine a carpet that could sense when you walk into a given room, and automatically tell your lights to turn on, your speakers to fire up, or your blinds to swing open. With the right algorithms, the system might even be able to predict where you’re walking based on the direction of your movement (or even through analysis of your past habits) and turn on lights before you enter a room. If SensFloor were linked up to your smartphone, it could become an invisible surveillance system, and alert you of activity inside your house while you’re away. The possibilities are extremely vast.
At this point in time, the product is still pretty pricey (roughly $270 for every 11 square feet), but with any luck, the cost will begin to come down once demand increases. For the time being, however, we suggest you start brainstorming and planning out all of the elaborate pranks you could pull with something like this.
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