Maxwell Smart, the bumbling comic spy in the 1960s television series Get Smart, frequently used his ‘shoe phone’ to report his latest predicament to The Chief at CONTROL. Now a Flinders University computer scientist has combined the latest telecommunications components to produce the real thing.
While it was devised as a prop for an amateur theatre production, Flinders post-doctoral fellow in bioinformatics, Paul Gardner-Stephen, realized the concepts behind the shoe phone have potential for the development of biomedical devices.
“Relaying voice communications via a shoe is technologically similar to relaying medical data for remote patient monitoring, such as pulse, blood pressure, blood oxygenation and so forth,” Dr Gardner-Stephen said today.
“And a shoe is a good location for housing the electronics required for storing and communicating these measurements. Shoes are well accepted by most people, and are simple to put on and take off,” he said.
“Secondly, because our feet, and therefore our shoes, conduct large forces as we stand and walk, energy can be harvested to charge the device during ordinary activity. A shoe-based device would not only be easy to wear, it could run significantly longer between battery charges.
“There is also potential to develop the telephone function for use in home nursing and aged care facilities. The shoe based platform makes it possible to detect shocks and orientation changes resulting from, for example, a fall. On detecting this, the device could telephone a medical carer and initiate a speaker phone conversation and call for any assistance required.”
Professor Karen Reynolds, Head of the Flinders Medical Devices and Technologies Group in the School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics, said Dr Gardner-Stephen’s shoe phone “demonstrates the potential for the integration of wireless technologies into items of everyday use”.
“There is much interest and ongoing research into the use of advanced electronics, sensors and communication technologies to allow individuals to live independently in the home. Ideas that we used to see only on science fiction shows are now becoming a reality,” Professor Reynolds said.
“The shoe phone also provides an ideal opportunity for student involvement in an innovative and exciting project area,” she said.