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The rapid aging of the world's population, along with an increase in the prevalence of chronic illnesses and obesity, requires adaption and modification of current healthcare models. One such approach involves telehealth applications, many of which are based on sensor technologies for unobtrusive monitoring. Recent technological advances, in particular, involving microelectromechnical systems, have resulted in miniaturized wearable devices that can be used for a range of applications. One of the leading areas for utilization of body-fixed sensors is the monitoring of human movement. An overview of common ambulatory sensors is presented, followed by a summary of the developments in this field, with an emphasis on the clinical applications of falls detection, falls risk assessment, and energy expenditure. The importance of these applications is considerable in light of the global demographic trends and the resultant rise in the occurrence of injurious falls and the decrease of physical activity. The potential of using such monitors in an unsupervised manner for community-dwelling individuals is immense, but entails an array of challenges with regards to design c onsiderations, implementation protocols, and signal analysis processes. Some limitations of the research to date and suggestions for future research are also discussed.
Date of Publication: March 2012