Imported: 13 Feb '17 | Published: 11 Oct '16
USPTO - Utility Patents
Sensor module for sensing forces to the head of an individual and wirelessly transmitting signals corresponding thereto for analysis, tracking and/or reporting the sensed forces.
This application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/881,275 filed Sep. 23, 2013; and U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/868,004 filed Aug. 20, 2013, the entire disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to the sensing of forces to the head of an individual and, more particularly, to the use of a high-quality, mobile physiometric sensor module with a multi-layer distributed data storage, analysis and presentation structure.
2. Brief Discussion of the Related Art
Individuals engaged in a wide variety of physically demanding sports and activities risk brain or other serious injuries resulting from impact, hyper-extension and other extreme movements or events. Some examples of risk-laden sports include, among many others, football, soccer, baseball, basketball and rugby.
Most attempts to reduce the effects of impacts have included sensors mounted in helmets, in the mouth, or along the side of the head. They do not provide real-time information relating to occurrence of impact events to permit an individual being monitored to be removed from active play for the individual's safety.
The present invention senses forces applied to the head of an individual where indications of the sensed forces can be transmitted to one or more remote locations permitting visualizations of the force events to which an individual is exposed.
The present invention provides accurate sensing of force events and allows data analysis to be performed in real-time and, through more extensive post-processing, to permit the warning of players, coaches, parents and others of events which are potentially harmful and could require medical attention. The present invention serves to protect all involved in sporting events or other activities, including players, coaches, managers and parents, for example, by informing them in real-time of impacts to an individual, assisting them in determining if or when the individual should be removed from the activity for the individual's safety.
Some of the advantages of the present invention include increasing athletic performance while decreasing risk, isolating players who have taken severe or repeated impacts to the head, reinforcement of proper techniques, providing coaches, trainers and parents confidence that they are making a game or activity safer. The sensing device or module, sometimes referred to as a SIM sensor, is carried on or in a support having a shape to surround the head, such as a headband or skull cap, not requiring a helmet or other special equipment, to transmit impacts to the head in real-time. The application of the present invention displays data in real-time for athletes on a team as well as for individual use, and stores data historically for each individual being monitored such that the data can be accessed for any time before or after an event for analysis by coaches, trainers, doctors, athletic directors and parents or the like. A software application that can be part of the present invention allows the present invention to be activated for the duration of a contact drill in practice such that any subsequent impact that occurs while the system is activated can be saved for later analysis relating to specific drills. Once a particular drill has been completed, head impacts that occurred during the drills can be isolated such that athletes recording the highest G-force impacts can be determined allowing a coach or others involved in the drill to apply special coaching to decrease the amount of impact to a particular athlete's head.
One aspect of the present invention is the positioning of the impact sensor module in alignment with the median nuchal line of the occipital bone of the skull thereby providing extremely accurate data. Positioning of the sensor can be accomplished by placing the sensor module in a pocket formed in a support having a shape to surround the head, such that the sensor module can be comfortably worn during activities at a position to record all impacts and accelerations greater than a preprogrammed set-point. The support can be formed of a headband, a skull cap, or fabric tied around the head like a bandana, and the pocket can be open to facilitate insertion of a sensor module or closed to form the sensor module integrally with the support.
In another aspect, the present invention allows the performance of cognitive and balance evaluation tests to gauge an individual's performance immediately after a possible concussive event in real-time. Balance evaluation tests can be accomplished with the sensor module in place by proper programming of the sensor module or by other equipment coordinating with the sensor module.
Another aspect of the present invention is a method for monitoring impact forces to the head utilizing a sensor module at the back of the head in alignment with the median nuchal line of the occipital bone utilizing local data service infrastructure and/or global data surface infrastructure.
In a further aspect, the present invention permits monitoring of impact forces to the head of individuals participating in a team activity where a sensor module is worn by each of the participants and a data collection wireless access point receives signals from the sensor modules.
Other aspects and advantages of the present invention will be appreciated from the following description of the invention taken in conjunction with the drawings. The drawings and the following description are meant to be exemplary only of an embodiment of the present invention.
As shown in FIG. 1, a sensor module 10 in accordance with the present invention is typically a small, environmentally sealed device incorporating a sub GHz transceiver, a low power microprocessor, a 3-axis high g accelerometer, a 3-axis low g accelerometer, a 3-axis gyroscope, a non-volatile memory, a battery, a battery charger and other support circuitry. The sensor module 10 is sometimes referred to herein as a mobile sensor or a SIM or an impact monitor. The sensor module 10 is in substantial alignment with the median nuchal line of the occipital bone of the skull shown in dashed lines at N and, normally, between the inferior and superior nuchal lines. One embodiment utilizes a curved elongate antenna 12 extending from the sensor module housing toward the left side of the head. The anatomical axes denoted as Xa, Ya and Za, the sensor axes denoted as Xs, Ys and Zs and the subtended angle θ are illustrated in FIG. 1. The anatomical axes allow correlation with the axes in the sensor module.
A headband 14 is shown in FIG. 3 and has a pocket 16 arranged along an inner surface or lining and cooperating with an elongated arcuate pocket 18 such that the sensor module 10 and antenna 12 shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 can be inserted within the pocket 16 and arcuate space 18 such that the sensor module is positioned adjacent the skull. The headband is preferably made of a non-stretchable material having only a small section thereof made of elastic to allow for form fitting. The headband thus stabilizes the sensor module and prevents “double hit” sensing by keeping the sensor module firmly in place against the skull. The outer surface of the headband adjacent the pocket 16 can carry indicia Ito facilitate accurate location of the sensor module on the head. The indicia can also include an arrow to make certain that the headband is properly oriented.
A skull cap having a structure around the periphery including the pocket structure described above is shown in FIG. 4.
The sensor module communicates with an access point in a wireless fashion such as over the 915 MHz ISM band in the U.S. Other bands are possible through minor firmware and hardware changes over the frequency range of 300 MHz-348 MHz, 389 MHz-464 MHz and 779 MHz-928 MHz. The sensor module 10 is capable of measuring linear acceleration events up to +/−400 G and rotational velocities up to +/−2000° /sec at a 1 KHz sample rate. An “event” is defined as a 3-axis G recording of 10 ms before and 52 ms after a threshold is exceeded. The threshold is calculated as (xg2 +yg2+zg2) and is adjustable. When an event is detected, the event is transmitted wirelessly in real-time (within a few tenths of a second) to the access point. If wireless communication with the access point is interrupted, the event is stored in internal non-volatile memory. When wireless communication is restored, any saved events are transmitted.
As shown in FIG. 5, the system of the present invention includes, in an exemplary embodiment, a plurality of sensor modules each in communication with an appropriate access point 20. Multiple impact monitors 10 can be used concurrently with a single access point 20. The access point and its associated impact monitors are assigned primary and secondary communication channels (from a set of over 30 for the 915 MHz band). If communication is not established on the primary channel within a few seconds, the impact monitors try on the secondary channel. This procedure is repeated until communication is established. The communication protocol is packet based with robust error checking/correction to increase the likelihood of valid data exchange. Each packet includes globally unique source and destination device identifiers to further insure data integrity. Each ‘event’ packet is tagged with a time stamp for unambiguous correlation of the data ‘event’ with the physical event producing it.
The local data services infrastructure 22 and the global data services infrastructure 24 all achieve the data integrity goal by holding all measurements until they have been successfully and verifiably transmitted to the next stage in the system.
The system of the present invention is formed of three main subsystems as shown in FIG. 5.
In addition, subscribers 26 (local and global) represent the final consumers of all available analytics.
The diagram in FIG. 6 shows a typical football field, with the system installed at the sidelines. In this example, there can be one (shown) or more WAP (WiFi Access Points) 20 to provide adequate WiFi coverage to both sides of the playing field (staff and spectators). Staff for both teams have their own display devices (iPAD, etc.), and are granted access to their respective team's information only.
The sensor modules each collect data on impact events to the wearer's head that occur during typical sports activities (football, soccer, etc.). The sensor data being recorded includes 3-axis linear accelerometer data, 3-axis rotational data, diagnostics and status, time stamp, and individual device identification as shown in FIG. 7. The sensor modules (SIMs) also contain a small processor that handles sensor data acquisition and manages a wireless radio link with the AP. The SIMs can incorporate a wider and more extensive range of sensor inputs, including standard health monitoring functions (heart rate, respiration, temperature, GSR, etc.) and other physiological parameters,
All impact-event data from the sensor modules are transmitted to the nearby access point via a low-power 900 MHz radio link. The data is received by the AP, processed and presented almost instantaneously to nearby coaches/administrators through the LDS. The LDS infrastructure includes the AP, plus a local computer (PC). This subsystem primarily serves as a real-time data collection and storage unit.
The LDS can be physically deployed at the sidelines, as a mobile LDS or as a fixed LDS at a given sports complex or playing field/stadium/court. In either case, the functionality of the LDS remains the same:
The LDS should be connected to the global internet (and thus, the GDS) whenever possible. However, the reality is that many sports venues (football fields, soccer fields, etc.) have little or no access to the global internet, and often lack even AC power.
As an option to a direct internet connection, the LDS can utilize commonly available “LAN/CELL” bridge devices, which allow the use of public cellular networks (GSM, 3G, 4G-LTE, etc.) as the gateway to the internet (and therefore, the GDS). The LAN/CELL bridge devices are generally compatible with a wide range of cellular networks. In most cases, all that is required is a prepaid cellular card plugged into the LAN/CELL bridge unit.
The physical implementation of the LDS has as basic elements, options for fixed or mobile deployments, AC or solar power, battery power, LAN hub, WAP (WiFi-AP), and a cellular-LAN bridge device.
The Global Data Services (GDS) subsystem can be considered “cloud based” insofar as it exists as a collection of stored sensor data, programs, and the physical computing hardware could be provided by any number of service providers in this field.
There are many advantages of implementing a “cloud based” design rather than using fixed in-house server hardware implemented using commodity PCs. The key elements of a cloud based strategy can be summarized as follows:
A key element of the system is the acquisition and perpetual long-term storage of all available sensor (SIM) data. Over time, no doubt there will be many ways of analyzing that data for various purposes. Sometimes for the user's own personal “performance monitoring” needs. At other times, the data will be invaluable for analysis of athletic performance and related injuries, correlating with demographics other recorded factors.
FIG. 8 shows a user interface which can be used as an exemplary layout of a sensor-event record, as it would be stored (locally) in the LDS, and transferred to/from the GDS (and stored there as well). The sensor-event record, as shown, contains discrete fields which are, in most cases, simply extracted from the raw sensor-event data (as delivered over the RF link). These discrete fields are brought out so that the LDS/GDS database engine (mySQL, etc.) can use those fields to efficiently index and organize the records. Whether the data storage (on disk) is a “relatively small” database like on the LDS, or scaled up to “multi-terabyte” database (on the GDS), it is important to bring out some fields like this because the database engine is most efficient at what it does best—indexing and accessing data organized into fields. On the LDS there will be a single SQL (or other) program managing event records. On the GDS, the equivalent “SQL engine” function can easily be scaled up to many servers, all accessing the same storage unit, providing analytics for many thousands of users worldwide. Keeping the event-record the same everywhere keeps things uniform. The system relies not only on the sensor data, but a number of interrelated databases which ensure the proper identification, storage, categorization, analysis and distribution of the results. The sensor event records are stored and managed by the database engine (SQL, etc.), using one or more of the “-ID” fields as primary index keys. The user database contains detailed user identification (name, address), and a list of all SIM-ID/IDX's that have been assigned to this user.
Each organization (school, university, club, etc.) will be registered into the system, and each organization will be responsible for one or more AP+LDS units. Each AP+LDS unit will be registered and activated before it can participate in the system. This is mainly to prevent the use of unauthorized copies of the LDS.
The subscriber database authenticates the final consumers of the sensor data and its derivative analytics. Subscribers are pay-for-access users, and therefore a related mechanism will be the billing and user-account management for each subscriber. There will be various subscriber access levels.
The most common access method, generally compatible with most if not all devices, is a typical browser-based GUI. It would be accessed by a fixed URL. The browser interface GUI should be straightforward and as simple as possible in terms of using the “special features” of any particular browser. In fact, all analytics should be delivered as graphic images (JPEG/GIF/PNG) that are computed and delivered as needed. Some of the browsers to support include:
The following is a general description of data flow activities within the LDS
The following is a general description of programs running on the GDS (via a Cloud Service):
There are many possible ways of analyzing sensor-data, from real-time events (at a football game), to more generalized statistical research.
A variation of the present invention is illustrated in FIG. 9 wherein the sensor module 10′ has an antenna within the housing thereof such that an arcuate space for the antenna in the headband is not required. Additionally, arrow indicia is displayed on the outer surface of the headband at the pocket receiving the sensor module 10′ to assure that the individual wearing the headband has vertically properly aligned the headband and the accompanying sensor module. Additionally, portions of non-Newtonian fluid are positioned on the inner surface of the headband to separate the skull from the sensor module. The non-Newtonian fluid, in one example, will be supplied in four small ovals sewn into the inner lining of the headband SIM pocket. The non-Newtonian fluid will be a small buffer against the SIM and the back of the head which will allow the SIM to generate a more accurate impact reading.
From the above, it should be appreciated that the present invention permits continuous sampling and recording of high-g accelerometer and gyro data since, when an impact/event is detected, the data that was recorded at the impact point is transmitted along with data relating to what happened before the impact. More particularly, high-g accelerometer (linear) and gyroscope (rotation) are sampled/monitored at, for example, a 1 KHz rate and successive samples of the linear and rotational sensor data are placed in a circular buffer. The system of the present invention can be used in conjunction with specialized software to perform a cognitive and balance evaluation test when data indicates that such tests are desirable.
The above described embodiments of the present invention can be varied as will be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art, for example, use of different radio frequencies and radio transmission chips and circuits for data transmission, inclusion of additional sensors and sensing capabilities within the sensor module, use of alternative power sources permitting charging mechanisms such as induction charging, and motion-based energy “harvesting”. Additionally, the present invention can utilize cell phones, tablet computers, laptop computers or other similar devices as an alternative to a dedicated LDS system for example using Bluetooth or WiFi for communication with the sensor modules, the use of a self-contained LDS system including integral computing capability but not including an external laptop computer device, a system using a “self-contained” LDS incorporating some elements of functionality from the GDS to allow use without a GDS system. Alternative designs could also utilize a general purpose network technology (rather than one specifically deployed for the application of the present invention within an LDS) examples of which would be a WiFi network, cellular phone or paging network and a general purpose data communications network such that alternative designs could include a system without and LDS but where some of the functionality of the LDS is moved to the GDS. Allow correlation with the axes in the sensor module.
Inasmuch as the present invention is subject to many variations, modifications and changes in detail, it is intended that all subject matter discussed above or shown in the accompanying drawings be interpreted as illustrative only and not be taken in a limiting sense.