According to a study published in 2020 in ScienceDirect Disability and Health Journal, walking is the most frequently reported aerobic physical activity among U.S. adults with mobility disability. In the study of self-reported aerobic and muscle-strengthening physical activity, 34% said they walked for exercise. The CDC reports that each year, hospitals treat 3 million older people in emergency departments and admit over 800,000 seniors with fall injuries, typically head injuries or hip fractures. Peter Chamberlain, WalkWise CEO, designed the company’s eponymous device for remote patient monitoring device for walker users. This sensor can be used to monitor exercise and to detect falls.

In 2016, Chamberlain was a graduate student in MIT’s MakerWorkshop when he began working on a prototype movement tracker for walkers for his relatives. WalkWise is a two-component system. The smart walker component runs on AAA batteries for up to a year; it simply attaches to a walker wheel with zip ties. The wheel attachment records movement and detects walker tip overs with an onboard accelerometer. The second component is a communications node that plugs into a standard electrical outlet. The communications node is a cellular gateway that connects to the smart walker device via Bluetooth low energy (BLE). Because the system uses a cellular connection to keep it simple for seniors and other users who may not have Internet or smartphone access. A caregiver or family member can use a mobile app to configure alerts and manage the system remotely.

The WalkWise smart walker system has three primary uses: fall prevention, health screening, and user safety monitoring. Concerned parties can monitor daily walker usage and observe high-risk activities. Changes in activity patterns can indicate cognitive or physical decline, infection, injury, or illness. Caregivers can also set up the system to send notifications of daily walking activity and goals, walker tip overs, lack of movement at the beginning of the day, or no movement for a defined time period. All of the features support senior independence and aging in place. Chamberlain’s company is currently working on WalkWise versions for wheelchairs and canes plus constructing machine-learning algorithms that can detect signs of a wider range of health problems.