A smartphone-based online system for fall detection with alert notifications and contextual information of real-life falls

Yaar Harari, Nicholas Shawen, Chaithanya K. Mummidisetty, Mark V. Albert, Konrad P. Kording, Arun Jayaraman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Falls are a leading cause of accidental deaths and injuries worldwide. The risk of falling is especially high for individuals suffering from balance impairments. Retrospective surveys and studies of simulated falling in lab conditions are frequently used and are informative, but prospective information about real-life falls remains sparse. Such data are essential to address fall risks and develop fall detection and alert systems. Here we present the results of a prospective study investigating a proof-of-concept, smartphone-based, online system for fall detection and notification. Methods: The system uses the smartphone’s accelerometer and gyroscope to monitor the participants’ motion, and falls are detected using a regularized logistic regression. Data on falls and near-fall events (i.e., stumbles) is stored in a cloud server and fall-related variables are logged onto a web portal developed for data exploration, including the event time and weather, fall probability, and the faller’s location and activity before the fall. Results: In total, 23 individuals with an elevated risk of falling carried the phones for 2070 days in which the model classified 14,904,000 events. The system detected 27 of the 37 falls that occurred (sensitivity = 73.0 %) and resulted in one false alarm every 46 days (specificity > 99.9 %, precision = 37.5 %). 42.2 % of the events falsely classified as falls were validated as stumbles. Conclusions: The system’s performance shows the potential of using smartphones for fall detection and notification in real-life. Apart from functioning as a practical fall monitoring instrument, this system may serve as a valuable research tool, enable future studies to scale their ability to capture fall-related data, and help researchers and clinicians to investigate real-falls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number124
JournalJournal of neuroengineering and rehabilitation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Fall detection system
  • Real-falls
  • SmartPhone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Informatics


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