Open Idea: Walking cane with embedded phone

13 02 2009

Hey guys! Recently for one of my modules I was asked to come up with a product design that would improve a home activity for a target group. As it was just an idea brainstorming session, I thought I should share an idea I had here which I think would be useful for many old people around the world with walking difficulties.

Some of you might be asking: Why are you doing this? The reason is simple. My grandfather is very frustrated with this problem and I want to help him resolve it but unfortunately I do not have the technical capabilities to do so. I am throwing this idea out in the open so that anyone who knows about such a technology or will be building it, can inform me so that I can get one for him to make his life easier.

Quick Brief
My grandfather is 80 years old and he is unable to walk without a cane. His walking pace is very slow and often, when the phone rings, he is unable to reach the phone in time to pick it up. He ends up missing the call making it very frustrating for him. I believe this is a dilemma often faced by many elderly people around the world. A simple solution that can be done is to add a cordless phone-like device into the cane. As the cane is always with the elderly person, it will make things much more convenient for him. This modification is a simple addition of a button and an embedded speaker phone. When the phone rings, the cane will emit a ringing sound. The elderly person can press a button on the cane to pick up the call and hear what is being said from the cane, right from wherever he is in the house.

Note that he does not need to bend down and put his ear to the cane as it is using speaker phone technology.
Also note that this is not a handphone but a phone that syncs with the house phone.

I threw in a very rough illustration too to help you guys understand the idea better.

And feel free to drop any comments for discussion! It can be about what you think of the idea, its usability, how it can be more useful, etc. 🙂

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9 responses

13 02 2009
chris

Cool idea. The only thing I would suggest is maybe hooking up to a bluetooth headset in some way? This way if you’re outdoors it’s easier to hear and more private. But your original idea is more low-tech and I think would appeal to more elderly people than one involving a bluetooth headset. Maybe this could be an “option” for younger disabled people or more tech-savvy seniors.

I think if you go with your original idea where this is basically a wireless house phone it’s a very easy item to produce (technology is out there you just adapt it to that form). It’s just a 900mhz cordless phone constantly on speaker mode. It would need some sort of cradle I guess to charge in at night since a loudspeaker would put a large drain on the battery.

Good luck. If you feel ambitious maybe you could buy a cheap handset and chop it up in the name of science to make a proof-of-concept!

Oh and one other thing — your drawing with the accept/reject call looks inspired by a cell phone, which is fine but I think that implies you need a display of some sort (otherwise based on what information are you accepting or rejecting the call?)

13 02 2009
Zhiquan

Embed a vibration motor into the handle, coupled with an auditory signal to indicate an incoming call. Charging wise, either a cradle/docking station, or kinetic powered on-board battery charger (tried this before, hard as heck to get right).

As for interfacing with a phone, you can either rip the guts out of a cordless phone (the simpler the phone the better), or… roll your own (my preferred way, just because I like building crap). Phone circuitry is interesting to deal with (just don’t touch the wires when the phone is ringing).

13 02 2009
jiinjoo

He won’t hear the cane. And he probably will be shouting into thin air. You need something more “vivid” for senior citizens.

For your grandfather specifically, I’d recommend the simplest MOBILE PHONE to put in his (front) pocket 🙂

13 02 2009
bitbot

Wow! Thanks for the comments guys. Didn’t expect to get a response so fast. This is the first time I’m trying something like this.

@Chris: You brought up a very good point about providing the user information about the call for them to make a decision. Most of the elderly have eyesight problems though so showing info of who is calling on a bar will most probably not be helpful. Maybe I can put in a technology to read out the number / name of person calling? Then again, if we think about it, the elderly usually don’t check the caller ID when taking calls but this is just a generalization I’m making based on my observation of my grandparents.

@Zhiquan: Sounds like if I really intend to do it, I would need to quite a bit of reading up on circuit boards especially those pertaining to cordless phone technology.

@jiinjoo: Haha well you have a good point there but the bad thing about having a separate gadget is that they often leave it on their table/bedside. A reason why I wanted it embedded in the cane is because the cane is always with them since they need it to aid their walking. My grandfather has no hearing disabilities and doesn’t need to shout but you brought a good point about the elderly with hearing disabilities not being able to hear the cane’s sound properly. Thanks!

13 02 2009
DK

Actually, a bluetooth headset should solve everything. Just hang the headset around the neck when not using.

The walking cane embedded with a phone is an interesting idea. But implementation wise might be a little bit of a problem.

Another easy solution is to have a hook or something to hook the mobile phone to the walking cane.

14 02 2009
bitbot

@dk: Haha my family actually did try that. We bought him a mobile phone so that he is contactable wherever he is. The problem is everytime he looks at the many buttons and functions, he gets confused and after a week of trying, he left it in the cold. I guess once people reach a certain age they find it very hard to learn new things.

14 02 2009
binghan

Agree with Jinjoo and DK about the implementation of phone on cane. First, the speaker will be fairly soft due to the size of the speaker. Second, elderly people tent to have hearing difficulty, so most likely they wont be able to hear from the cane.
So, yeah, wireless phone (with minimal buttons, or with obvious “pick up” and “hang up” buttons) and bluetooth headset might be more suitable in this case.
=)

23 06 2009
buy cordless phone

Thank you for best information.

29 10 2010
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i love mobile phones that can surf the net in lightning fast speed,”-

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