Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 17

Mobile Emergency Alert System

Scott Blincoe, Kaitlin Burnam, Max Inniger, Dan Nolan, Chris OConnell,
and Joseph Struttmann
December 11, 2014
Engineering Your Community
Professor Gregory Bucks and Professor Kathleen Ossman
University of Cincinnati

Problem Statement
Currently, residents of The Beechwood Home have access to a call button only
within their own rooms. When a resident is unattended outside of Beechwood Home,
they have no way to call an aide for help other than their cell phone, which is
difficult for some residents. In certain instances, residents whose wheelchairs had
tipped over or rolled down a hill were not found until hours after the incident had
occurred. In other cases, residents with a speech impairment who had been
wandering around and had gotten lost or fallen asleep had to wait until a bystander
realized they were in need of help and called the emergency services, who
eventually get the resident back to the Beechwood Home. Ideally, the amount of
time from when an incident occurs to when the resident can receive assistance
should be minimized. This project solves these problems using a sensor that
detects a tipped wheelchair, a button that allows the resident to call for help, and a
sign that lights up when either of these sensors is tripped, all controlled by an
Arduino Uno.

Solutions Investigated
As described previously, there has been an issue with wheelchairs tipping over at
The Beechwood Home. While developing a system to prohibit tipping seemed to be
too much of an undertaking for this one semester project, developing a system to
alert Beechwood staff of a tip over seemed much more plausible. Therefore,
solutions that would be able to monitor the orientation of the patients wheelchairs
were explored. The first solution that was investigated was a gyroscopic sensor that
the IMS Center had already purchased. This type of sensor measures angular
velocities about the x-, y-, and z-axes. With these angular velocity values one would
be able to compute the orientation of the wheelchair using integration via the
Arduino. Therefore, by being able to calculate the orientation of the wheelchair in
space, one would be able to determine if the wheelchair has tipped over. If the
wheelchair tipped, then the Beechwood staff would be alerted. An accelerometer
was also chosen as a viable solution. This sensor is very similar to the gyroscope
except that it measures linear accelerations along three axes instead of angular
velocities. It computes position by integrating the acceleration values in the same
way that the gyroscope computes angular orientation. Like the gyroscope, staff
members would be notified if the accelerometer measures a tipped position. Lastly,
two different types of tilt switches were investigated. Unlike the aforementioned
sensors, these switches are significantly less complicated. A tilt switch is a switch
whose state is determined by its orientation. Both of the tilt switches explored
contained an internal, metal ball that would close a circuit when the switch was in a
particular position. Once the switch tilts past a specific threshold, the metal ball rolls
away from the contacts and opens the switch. Depending of the particular switch
that was chosen, the opening or closing of the switch would alert the staff. One of

the switches that were investigated came from the Arduino Uno starter kit, and the
other is the AG1262-1 tilt switch from Comus International. The differences between
the two switches were fairly minimal. The Arduino switch was closed when it was
upright while the opposite was true for the Comus switch. Furthermore, the Comus
tilt switch tripped at approximately 50 while the Arduino tile switch required a tilt
of approximately 90.
Early in the design process, we explored the different types of tactile buttons
available that can interface with the Arduino Uno. None of these seemed very
adaptable to the majority of the residents capabilities. The initial idea for the
capacitive touch help buttons design was to find a touch sensor button that would
allow residents with limited strength to trigger a call. The first attempt at this was
through ordering a capacitive touch sensor from Sainsmart. The idea was to expose
the capacitive touch portion of the strip and utilize that portion as the button. This
first idea did not end up being the final design due to the surface area being too
small for residents to utilize. The next trial was soldering a wire into the touch
sensors integrated circuit and running that wire to a fabricated button. This worked
well except for excessive sensitivity. The sensitivity was from the wire being
calibrated on boot and the length of the wire being sensitive. This was fixed by the
third design trial, which involved running the wires from the chip to the Arduino and
storing the chip and wire coil inside the button itself. This reduced the sensitivity of
the button to what we needed.
Initially, the idea for the tilt- or button press-activated help sign was to put a
blinking light on the back of the wheelchair to alert a bystander to assist the
resident. The team agreed on using LEDs and text to communicate the message to
the bystander. We had multiple variations of the design in which the text was
presented in a different medium. An initial design focused around a sign made of
corrugated plastic, on which text was laser etched and the sign was folded into a
box shape. Since the text would always be readable, even with the LEDs off, we
included on the sign a message saying If this sign is lit, I am in need of assistance.
We included the Beechwood Homes phone number so that the person reading
could call Beechwood directly instead of calling 911. This version of the sign was
waterproof, lightweight, strong, and inexpensive to make. However, the light of an
LED didnt shine through the corrugated plastic very well, which most likely wouldnt
get the attention of a bystander, especially during daytime. One work-around we
found was to cut holes in one layer of the corrugated plastic and insert the LED into
the hole so that the light only has to pass through one layer of plastic and not two,
but that task would be very labor intensive as it would require LEDs to be
individually wired so that they could fit into each of the holes. In addition, the final
result would still not be very bright. While we were brainstorming ideas for how to
make the sign stand out more, we came up with the idea of making a laser etched
acrylic sign with LEDs around the perimeter of the sign. This design fixed the
problem we were having where the sign was not attention-grabbing enough. This

design needed a case, so we conceptualized a 3D printed case to hide the LEDs, but
realized that 3D printing was not a very efficient way to manufacture the signs
frame, and made one out of wood instead.

Mobile Emergency Alert System Module
Arduino Uno
T-Mobile SIM Card (with service plan)
CC3000 WiFi Shield
SMA to U.FL Interface Cable
Comus International AG1262-1 Tilt
Sainsmart Capacitive Touch Sensor
LED Strip (5 meter roll)
12V Lithium-ion Battery with Charger
USB A to B Cable
Custom Hardware Casing
Acrylic Help Sign
Sign Frame
#6-40 x 3/8 Screws
1/8 Diameter, 1 1/8 Length Dowel
7/64 Diameter, 1 1/2 Length Dowel
#6-32 x 7/16 Bumpers with Threaded
Insulated Wire
Electrical Tape
Elmers Wood Glue
Unit Cost
Arduino Integrated Development
Environment (IDE)
Microsoft Visual Studio/Notepad2
MakerBot Desktop










As needed
As needed
As needed


Provided by IMS Center/University of
80 $18,516

At time of publication, sales representative has not responded with a price.

The code used to send the email alert can be written and edited in Notepad or any other
text file editor; however, a software like Microsoft Visual Studio helps make the code easier

to read. Visual Studio Express is a free version of this software. Visual Studio Ultimate 2012
was downloaded for free through the University of Cincinnatis Microsoft DreamSpark access.

Projected total cost. Actual unit cost will differ due to a lower per unit data plan cost and
other price breaks. The system will also incur charges for the cellular data plan.

Design Justification
The tilt switch model was chosen due to its simplicity. Both the gyroscope and the
accelerometer were valid solutions, but they were too complex for the scope of this
project. The time required to learn the relevant code and the processing power they
would require were excessive when compared to the tilt switches. Just like how a
wheelchair is either tipped over or upright, a tilt switch is either open or closed.
Therefore, the state of the switch could be made to correspond to the orientation of
the wheelchair. No computing would be necessary for such a basic solution. The
Arduino simply had to measure whether or not the tilt switch circuit was HIGH or
LOW. The tilt switch from Comus International was chosen because it had a
smaller tipping threshold compared to the switch from the Arduino starter kit. The
latter required a tilt of approximately 90 before the circuit was broken. Depending
on the model of the wheelchair, it may not be able to tilt a full 90 in certain
directions. For example, if the wheelchair tipped to either the right or left, the arms
of the chair would stop the fall and keep the chair from laying perfectly horizontal.
Comuss switch, however, only needed to tilt approximately 50, and that made it
more likely to trip in any of the varying wheelchairs used by The Beechwood Home.
We chose the buttons design strategy it allows us to adapt easily through the
process. The 3D printed button case is easily modifiable to any wheelchair size or
resident preference. The integrated circuit in the Sainsmart chip allows us to
calibrate the sensor to any button size or shape we need. The location of the button
can be changed on an individual basis as well. The design is very effective because
it can meet the varied needs of Beechwoods residents.
The final sign design works well because it is attractive and when the LEDs are off,
the text on the sign is unobtrusive. When the LEDs are on, the sign is easily legible
and the brilliance of the blue LEDs are attention-grabbing. In the text, we added an
area for a name so that any bystander could address the resident by name (to get
the residents attention or wake them up if they are asleep). The signs text still
explains that the resident is in need of assistance only if the sign is lit. It provides
Beechwoods phone number and explains that this is a resident of the Beechwood
Home. The Velcro straps on the sign allow an aide to remove the sign at any time,
but offer a strong adhesion onto the back of the wheelchair.
Controlling these features of the Mobile Emergency Alert System is the Arduino Uno
microcontroller. It is programmed using Arduinos own language, which is similar to
C++ and is taught in a first-year programming class at the University of Cincinnati.
There are also many compatible peripherals sold and code libraries available to
download for Arduino microcontrollers, making them a good choice for projects
intended to fulfill a variety of needs. Two of the peripherals exclusive to the Mobile
Emergency Alert System, the help button and the help sign, were ultimately made
by the team from scratch. However, using the Arduino Uno will also facilitate

interfacing with the Integrated Wheelchair Positioning Systems for location tracking.
The Uno was chosen for this wheelchair tracking system over other microcontrollers
on the market (Raspberry Pi, third-party microcontrollers with a -duino suffix, etc.)
because of its affordability, reliability, and versatility. This is an extension of that
project, so for portabilitys sake, the Uno is used again.

Technical Components
A tipped wheelchair is detected by a simple tilt switch. Due to its orientation inside
of the Mobile Emergency Alert System module, the switch is open while the
wheelchair is in an upright position. When the wheelchair tips over causing the
module to tip at an angle of greater than 50, the switch will close the circuit
leading to the Arduino. The on-board code then triggers the lighting of the LED strip
for the sign and calls a webpage that sends an email alert to Beechwoods staff.
The operation of the help button relies on a code telling the Arduino what to do
when it senses a change in the output of the Sainsmart capacitive touch sensor.
When the button assembly is touched, the integrated circuit changes the output
from low to high making the Arduino send a signal to turn on the LEDs, which wrap
around the edges of the sign.
The battery slides into a slot in the side of the prototype housing. The battery
makes contact with positive and negative terminals located at the back of the
battery slot. These terminals are wired into the positive and negative power in
inputs of the Arduino.
The sign is made from a laser etched sheet of clear acrylic, with a strand of blue
LEDs wrapped around the edge. The frame of the sign is made from a 1x2x8
pine board that is cut with a miter saw into 4 pieces of wood: (2) 5.5 pieces and (2)
8.5 pieces. 3/8 wide channels are cut 1/4 deep into each piece of wood using a
milling machine. The pieces are taken back to the miter saw to have their ends cut
at a 45-degree angle. The pieces are slowly cut down until they fit the acrylic sign
snugly. One of the 5.5 pieces gets a hole drilled through it to allow room for the
LED cord. Then all the pieces are glued together using a right angle clamp and wood
glue, the final piece locking the acrylic within the wooden frame. Dowels are
attached to the top of the sign and Velcro straps are added onto the dowels.
The Arudino Uno microcontroller is like a small computer that sends commands to
any devices connected to it. These commands are written in the Arduino
programming language to a script file on any personal computer, and are uploaded
to the device via a USB cable. It can then operate wirelessly, as long as an
adequate battery is connected. Different Arduino boards are available to use for
particular applications, however, we have opted for the most generic one. In the
future, it may be appropriate to select a board or two that meets more specific
needs. In addition to collecting signals from and transmitting commands to the

peripherals, the Arduino can also call webpages using a Wi-Fi or 4G connection. By
calling a PHP webpage, the Arduino will email the Beechwood Home staff when a
residents wheelchair tips over or his or her help button is pressed.
The Mobile Emergency Alert Systems primary method of sending an emergency
alert by email is Wi-Fi. A CC3000 shield for the Arduino Uno was chosen to perform
this function. This shield will connect to the Internet, allowing data to be sent to the
Beechwood Home wheelchair tracking website. Upon the push of the help button or
the chair tipping, an email will be sent to a dedicated account
(beechwoodemergency@gmail.com), alerting the staff to a resident in distress. Any
necessary staff member can have access to this email account, and it will be crucial
for each person to pay close attention to any messages the account receives.
Upon exiting the building, the Mobile Emergency Alert System can send the email
wirelessly via 4G data. A data plan and SIM card from T-Mobile are required. The
SIM card is inserted into the SIMCom SIM900 GSM shield for Arduino Uno, which is
powered and controlled by Arduino commands via a digital pin. This is primarily for
use outside of the Beechwood Home; when the resident exits, he or she will be out
of range of the Wi-Fi network, and the SIM shield will take over as the primary
transmitter. This means that cellular data can be paid for by-the-minute instead of
monthly, leading to large long-run cost savings.

Plans for Further Development

With any project, there are always things left to be desired. For the Mobile
Emergency Alert System, we are hoping to combine it with the Integrated
Wheelchair Positioning System. This would allow staff members to quickly track
down residents locations, in Beechwood or away, when the residents press their
mobile help buttons or trip the tilt switch. The reduces the number of additional
hardware elements, because the microcontroller, SIM card shield, and Wi-Fi shield
can all be shared between the two previously independent systems.
Another thing that is left to be done is setting up the Wi-Fi shield. The Wi-Fi shield
for each module will need to be programmed with the SSID, security type, and
password for The Beechwood Homes Wi-Fi network. Testing needs to be done to
ensure that a strong network connection can be achieved throughout the building.
In a similar vein, a possible optimization for the system would be to refine the code
for the Arduino to allow for sleep modes to save battery life.
Finally, research must be done on different batteries and the duration of their
charges while powering the system. In terms of testing the battery, the entire
system needs to operate and be monitored until the battery can no longer power it.
This is, hopefully, time consuming, and needs to be done when someone can pay
attention to whether or not the system is working for a full day. It may be possible
to use the website to see when the last GPS location was collected, but this means

living the module outside all day. The twelve volt drill battery that is currently used
will be tested, but ideally, a replacement will be found to lower the cost of each
module. Other batteries on the list to test include alkaline in various sizes,
rechargeable AA batteries, and a portable USB charger/external battery designed as
a backup for cell phones. The wheelchairs battery is another option, which this
years IMS Center senior design team is planning to explore.

Suggestions for Improvement

Although the product performs its necessary functions as we have designed it, there
are several ways to increase its utility. The first is to reduce the cost of the battery.
The current design uses a twelve volt battery from an electric drill. While this
batterys size, shape, and charger are convenient, its price could be more practical.
In order to save funds, in the future, the IMS Centers senior design team will assist
with an attempt to power the Arduino board and components from the same battery
that powers an electric wheelchair. If the senior design team finds that this is not a
viable option, more research on long-lasting batteries wilcl be conducted, as
discussed in the previous section. Another helpful modification would be to use a
more powerful Arduino board. Currently, an Arduino Uno is in place, but the Arduino
Mega is being considered by the senior design team, who will be helping with this
step as well. A different option to try is using two Arduino boards, one of them
being the Arduino Mini or another small microcontroller, and one being the Uno.
Eventually, it may be possible to create a custom printed circuit board, integrating
all the features of the various third-party peripherals. The current plan is to attach
these peripherals, such as the sign and the control box that holds all the circuit, with
Velcro or magnets, but ideally they would be more securely mounted using
something more permanent like screws. However, during a prototyping phase that
is not possible, because we do not want to make any permanent modifications to
Beechwoods property. Finally, a nice upgrade would be to create a mobile
application. This app would become the delivery method for the staffs notification
of a tip or a call for help. Receiving a push notification from an app would be more
easily distinguished from receiving just another email. The app would make it
easier to view the location tracking map while on-the-go, actively searching for a
resident. It could even include tips or a checklist regarding how to help a
wheelchair-bound person who has tipped over or is otherwise in distress. The main
users of this app would be Beechwood Home staff members, but it may be possible
to design a version for residents families as well.

Funding for this project was provided by the Engineering Your Community budget
and the College of Engineering and Applied Science. The team would like to thank
Dr. Bucks and Dr. Ossman for their guidance as well as Laura Henkel and Behrad


Bagheri of the IMS Center for their assistance throughout the duration of this


Technical Documentation



Digital Pins
11, 10, 9, 8

USB Type B Port

Battery Clip Socket



Figure 1 Arduino Uno microcontroller, the positioning units center of command. (Photo:
Collins, Hanna, and Schriner 7, Labels: Burnam 9)

Digital Pins

Connector for

Power (5V and GND)

Figure 2 CC300 WiFi Shield from SparkFun Electronics, used to send an email alert via The
Beechwood Homes Wi-Fi network.



Digital Pins

Antenna Socket

Power (5V and GND)

Figure 3 SIMCom GSM shield, used to send an email alert over T-Mobiles 4G network.
(Photo: Collins, Hanna, and Schriner 8, Labels: Burnam 9)

SIM Card Holder

Arduino Connector Pins

Antenna Socket

Figure 4 Underside of GSM shield, with no SIM card inserted. (Photo and Labels: Burnam



Burnam, Kaitlin. Integrated Wheelchair Positioning Systems. 1 August 2014. Print.
Collins, Ian, Nicholas Hanna, and Scott Schriner. MECH 5051/5052 Senior Design
Project: Wheelchair Location Monitoring System. 22 April 2014. Print.