Fujitsu GPS walking stick pictures and hands-on: Next-generation cane
Alongside its ranges of mobile phones and tablet devices, Fujitsu dedicated part of its Mobile World Congress 2013 stand in Barcelona to future technologies - concepts that are still in the planning phase but are definitely being developed with an eye for consumer release somewhere down the line.
One that is in a more advanced form factor than most is a walking stick - or cane - that features GPS navigation features, combined with health monitoring sensors. It is designed, perhaps, with the older generation in mind, but could be as easily adopted by anybody with walking difficulties.
At present, it works by learning a set route determined on a computer. For example, a care worker or relative can draw the fastest and, more importantly, safest route to the shops for the wielder to take. The stick itself has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity (at the moment - we wonder if 3G or 4G will be considered too) and the route is transmitted to the cane.
An LED screen then shows large, easy to see arrows that point in the direction the owner needs to walk. When they reach a turning, it flashes a red exclamation mark and then points in the next direction to go, and so on and so forth.
The GPS location of the stick is also sent back to the host computer, so the relative or carer can see where the user is situated at all times. It is simple and very effective.
In addition, the stick has a heart rate monitor, currently in the form of a thumb reader on the top. It sends the heart rate back to software too, which can be read by the carer or even a doctor. If the heart rate rises or dips dangerously, there is also potential for the software to call the emergency services and, thanks to the GPS tracking, they will know the exact location to head towards.
The version Pocket-lint looked at on the Fujitsu stand came in the form of a couple of sticks, one where the GPS worked, the other for the heart rate monitoring. Clearly, it is still some way off release, but we were assured that it would be a full consumer product eventually. It will also be able to read temperature and humidity.
Naturally, it's far too early in the development life to mull over price, but if the company manages to keep it reasonably affordable, we could see the GPS walking stick becoming a very useful form of technology in years to come.