AT&T, Permobil Partner on Connected Wheelchair

The connected wheelchair concept uses AT&T’s Internet of Things (IoT) technology so that the chair can be monitored for comfort and maintenance.

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Telecommunications giant AT&T and health IT company Permobil, which specializes in power wheelchairs, announced they developed a proof of concept solution that wirelessly connects wheelchairs to increase user independence.

The connected wheelchair concept uses AT&T’s Internet of Things (IoT) technology so that the chair can be monitored for comfort, performance, maintenance requirements and location.

The solution, which is being developed and tested at the AT&T Foundry for IoT innovation, allows users to access data that impacts their everyday life and can be remotely accessed in the secure cloud and shared with caregivers, fleet technicians and clinicians.

"AT&T and Permobil have a longstanding strategic relationship focused on advanced communications and IT solutions," Mobeen Khan, associate vice president of industrial IoT for AT&T, told eWEEK. "Permobil and AT&T executives had an initial meeting at the AT&T Foundry for IoT innovation, which yielded a joint interest in bringing AT&T cellular connectivity and services to Permobil’s wheelchairs."

Kahn noted the team at the AT&T Foundry, through innovation and collaboration with Permobil, rapidly developed a proof of concept, which demonstrates the art of the possible with IoT.

Since its launch in 2011, the Foundry has started more than 200 projects and deployed dozens of new products and services.

Projects focus on business or technology and typically involve external startups, innovators, entrepreneurs, academics and inventors.

Commercial availability and pricing for Permobil’s connected wheelchair have not yet been announced.

One feature is the ability for users to know if their seat cushion pressure is out of range, which can lead to life-threatening pressure ulcers.

The solution complements Permobil’s Virtual Seating Coach, an app and cloud service that presents seating system information and tracks if users are following recommended seat function regimens.

Thanks to GPS and fleet management features, dealers can more efficiently schedule demos and appointments, while battery level and predictive maintenance requirements mean dealers will know when a chair needs to be serviced by remotely accessing error codes.

"At AT&T, across a variety of industries, including health care, we help our business customers set themselves apart from the competition with advanced solutions powered by the strength of our wireless and wireline network," Khan said. "We’re helping customers manage costs, protect information and speed business processes with innovative technology."

The connected wheelchair uses AT&T IoT technology that includes a Global SIM, AT&T Control Center and developer solutions like M2X and AT&T Flow Designer.

The two companies said they plan to continue to enhance the connected wheelchair concept and add services like access to home controls and remote monitoring to increase user independence and freedom.