It’s the stuff of spy novels – a smart walking stick that can track the user’s every move, with built-in GPS, wi-fi, alarm and lights.
This James Bond-style stick, called Leef, is also linked to a mobile app and folds up to fit discreetly into a backpack or carry bag.
But this is not the latest espionage gadget being issued to undercover agents, but an independent living solution designed to help Aussie seniors with mobility issues get out and about safely.
The mobility aid was designed by Swinburne School of Design student Xia Zhang, who was inspired the Master of Design theme ‘Re-imagine ageing’.
Designed to help people with more than just mobility, the walking stick has multiple functions.
A wi-fi connection inside the stick allows carers to connect to an elderly person using the stick with their mobile devices, by using GPS tracking and the support app.
If the user gets into trouble they can push an alarm button and the support app will alert carers. Alternatively using the support app, carers can detect lack of movement and the location of the elderly person and attend to them quickly.
The app can also monitor the battery power levels in the walking stick, and can supply health data such as the number of steps walked in a day.
With a fashion background, Mr Zhang teamed up with industry partner John Pollears of Leef Independent Living Solutions and the school’s Associate Professor in Communication Design Simone Taffe on the project.
“Feedback from co-design workshops helped me improve the idea,” said Mr Zhang.
“Some participants suggested that I could add fashion elements to the walking sticks. This made the sticks more popular and acceptable. They helped me to choose the most important functions for the walking stick.”
A built-in light system is powered by a rechargeable battery housed inside the stick handle. Supplying divergent light, this is to help elderly people on the move and to guide people walking outside at night.
The stick also has rubberised handles, offering a softer and warmer feel to steel or wood and the shaft is made from steel to support a person’s weight and withstand daily wear and tear.
Leef comes in a large range of colours and patterns.