Information from the German Federal Statistical Office and the Federal Motor Transport Authority shows:
a) Along with a simultaneous improving of the transport infrastructure, the number of passenger cars in Germany has almost doubled between 1980 and 2010, but the number of motorcycles has more than quintupled.
b) At about the same time the annual death rates with passenger cars have declined by the factor 4, with motorcycles only by the factor 2.25.
c) The death rates of moped drivers and cyclists have significantly dropped in these 30 years as well despite increasing usage – one can anticipate an opposing trend here within the next years due to the rapid increase of ever-faster e-bikes.
d) In 2011, more than 1,100 drivers of two-wheeled vehicles died in road traffic in Germany, another 400 in various sports such as horseback riding, climbing and skiing – the number of seriously injured persons with often lifelong effects from their injuries lies above 7,000 every year according to the projections of the German Insurers Accident Research (UDV).
As a consequence of more than half a million fall-related injuries the annual death rate in the home and leisure sector is approximately 12,000 alone for the over 60s, the number of seriously injured persons is above 60,000 – with an increasing tendency due to the demographic trend.
Consequently, elderly people, infirm persons and sick people not only in their home environment, but in particular in acute care and rehabilitation clinics, in ambulant and residential care facilities are affected. However, the growing number of people suffering from obesity, (BMI> 30) are similarly at risk – not only due to the loss of the visual control, but due to almost always existing comorbidity (amongst others hypertension, early osteoarthritis, diabetic neuropathy).
The number of Germans in need of care will increase from currently 2.6 to 3.3 million in 2030 according to the “Care Home Rating Report 2013”. About 1 million (5% of 20 million) hospitalized clinic and rehab patients with insecure gait as well 9.8 million mostly multimorbid patients suffering from obesity (see above) have to be added to this 2.6 million people in need of care – this adds up to today’s total of 13.4 million people that are exposed to an increased risk of falling and injury on 365 days a year over 24 hours.
The personal fall, at home or on the street, is part of the normal risk of life – though personally insurable, however without influence of third parties, not of public interest.
However, in case of a serious fall, every elderly person, person in need of care, clinic and rehab patient as well as multimorbid persons suffering from obesity has burdened the responsible employer’s liability insurance association (administration), the personal accident insurance as well as the compulsory health and statutory pension insurance with average case costs (geriatric traumatology of the 65 to 80 years old people) of far more than € 10,000 in 2012.
When taking only the above-mentioned number of more than 70,000 seriously and fatally injured persons above 60 years old in the home environment as a basis, an annual cost burden to the social systems of more than € 700 million results solely for this group.
Investments of billions in traffic infrastructure and energy absorbent passenger compartments (crumple zone) with complex restraint systems (seat belt/seat-belt tensioner/airbag) offer passengers of modern automobiles a protection that has been barely conceivable 30 years ago.
However, outside passenger compartments there is no even roughly comparable protection worldwide!
Protectors and airbag vests for motorcyclists and horsemen may at best offer a certain basic protection of chest and thoracic spine for lower speeds with “ideal” accident scenario – most severe injuries of cranium, brain, cervical spine, extremities and joints up to amputations, disruptions of internal organs and lifelong paraplegias are not avoidable with such equipment.
Even controlled with latest sensor technology, they – due to the system – do not meet the mostly complex course of the accident, but also the requirements of human anatomy and physiology.
Although there are numerous patent applications worldwide for the far greater, rapidly growing group of elderly and sick persons, people in need of care and persons suffering from obesity; however no product has been developed so far that even only vaguely would come close to the above-mentioned (questionable) basic protection.
A system, which offers almost all persons at risk of falling effective protection against most serious effects of injuries in the personal, commercial and public space of society, has been developed as an answer to this apparent “vacuum”.
By reason of the humanitarian and economic relevance the purpose and objective of the research are without any doubt in the public interest:
It is the objective of the research to promptly develop a generally accepted protection and rescue system with reasonable effort for serial production for the protection of all users and for the reduction of enormous injury costs, to check it for effectiveness and functional safety and to offer it to license holders for the worldwide production and marketing.
In order to be able to estimate the dimension of the possible prevention, not only for accident insurance companies, the following research hypotheses are to be assumed:
a) The system specifics published in December 2014 are not based on a questionable hypothesis, but on a natural principle that has survived more than 100 million years of evolution down to the present day.
b) In the meantime, its protective effect for falling pedestrians has been proven by means of simple functional prototypes (documented on video) in the framework of several fall simulations and, based on that, the system function could be demonstrated in a computer animation for different scenarios (elderly person, motorcyclist, workman).
c) The user-suitable (see below) realization poses a challenge manageable in terms of time and expense. Physical technical barriers, which could also question the acceptance by future users, are currently not recognizable.
d) If only 5% of the 13.4 million persons mentioned above, thus 670,000, escape serious effects of injuries or accidental death, statutory and private cost-bearers as well as accident and pension insurances would be relived from enormous health care and consequential costs:
For average case costs of more than € 12,000 in 2012, the cost relief through 100 avoided skull, femoral neck, pelvic and vertebral fractures would amount to € 1.2 million.
For 670,000 avoided most serious, often life-threatening, injuries a cost reduction of more than €8.04 billion is to be anticipated nationwide.
e) For this, protective clothing of different sizes in modern fashionable design would need to be obtained in the private environment, but in particular in clinics and care homes, which would have to be worn consistently and if needed in a controlled way by risk patients for their own safety.
Produced in high volumes, a piece price of approx. € 2000 is to be assumed.
Approx. 1/4 = 3,35 million of 13.4 million permanent fall-prone persons across Germany should be supplied by such a protective system according to an investment volume of approx. € 6,7 billions within 5 years.
A medical specialist in surgery and orthopedics with specific trauma surgical further education at, amongst others, 2 leading traumatic surgery centers of the German statutory accident insurance including active work as an emergency doctor for more than 30 years, can be assumed to have comprehensive experience and skills in consequences and treatment of accidents, but also in causes and courses of trauma.
Based on this, the German patent application for the protective system named above took place on May 29th 2013, the EU patent application on May 30th 2014.
In preparation for this, an extensive, international patent research with freedom-to-operate analysis in cooperation with an experienced patent attorney and a graduate engineer (head of section at the German Inventors’ Association) took place. The studies of global publications (amongst others Pubmed, Cochrane Review) did not indicate any conflict with already published property rights. In addition, engineers and technicians, who have been familiar with the subject personal and transport safety for years, confirmed that the system specifics described in the patent could be adapted for the following 3 user groups with relatively little effort from technologies already existent today:
A) Motorcyclists, ski racers, show jumpers, jockeys (as of approx. 25km/h), falls of workmen and mechanics
B) Bicyclists, e-bikers, horsemen, climbers, hikers, security staff (up to approx. 25 km/h)
C) Elderly people with insecure gait, persons in need of care, sick persons / persons suffering from obesity
The key task of the working program (primary objective criterion) lies in developing first functional prototypes for pedestrians with insecure gait for the protection and rescue system filed as a patent, which – slightly modified – are also suitable for speeds up to maximum 25 km/h.
Since this concerns the largest user group by far here, the fastest compensation of the investment costs – and in addition also extensive public relation for the overall concept – can be expected with its global application and marketing.
Under this technical and economic premise the system components (secondary objective criterion), which are required for fall damping from higher speeds, are to be checked for their suitability already at the start of the project– with the objective to provide users such as motorcyclists, skiers, horsemen, mechanics et al. with a so far barely imaginable chance of survival when falling, as soon as possible.
The optimal adjustment of the individual system components is comprehended as the primary, short-term achievable objective (see below): These have been produced in large scales for, amongst others, the automotive sector for years and have already been modified for various applications in small series (e.g. avalanche airbag). Product requests for the following components have been initiated:
a) Cold gas generators without pyrotechnics (“better airbags”) and pressurized gas tanks of lightest construction (CFRP),
b) Protector shells made of CFRP or comparable fiber-reinforced composites,
c) AirPost foils, tear-resistant with a minimum dimensional weight,
d) Sensor technology for procedural system activation and control (“smart sensors”)
e) Selection of fabrics for the module integration in clothing of common sizes
The components a) to c), derived from the airbag principle, are to be integrated into the respective protective clothing as easily replaceable units. Various suppliers in Germany and abroad are available for the components d) and e) – first contacts have already been established in order to be activated at the start of research in a timely manner.
The usage criteria of suitable components, which of course have to be acceptable for future users, have already been formulated and can be developed for series production with today’s technology within a maximum of 2 years according to consistent statements of qualified engineers.
A test prototype can be operational with the mentioned research expenditure (€ 2 million) already in the first year, which may only be tested on dummies and stuntmen due to its conventional, still pyrotechnical activatable gas generator.
The necessary detailed information including required test procedures can be clarified in the context of a presentation, if necessary supported by respective experts.
Engineers and technicians, who have a vast experience in the fundamental system components, determined the anticipated time frame and budget:
The largest research effort in time (maximum 2 years), staff and budget (approx. € 2 million) – due to the material development and testing – is claimed for the development of a module of an electrically activatable cold gas generator and a high-pressure resistant composite gas cartridge and its adaptation to clothing. This also includes the preparation of complex algorithm for the control and activation of smart sensor systems already available on the market.
Key components of the “better airbag” technology mentioned above have been developed in Germany for the automotive sector and have already been tested successfully – the patent holder has signaled the willingness to participate in the adaptation costs as soon as appropriate research funds are available.
Further internal labor and co-financings by public and private institutions, by companies interested in an acquisition of license and by private venture capital will depend on the recognition of the project as an eligible research project.
The developmental period of a maximum of 2 years for the gas generator-protector-AirPost (GPAP)-module is used by the research director and further participating institutes and companies to also select the remaining components according to physical-technical, but also economic and ecological aspects for the safe integration in the protection system.
The material and testing effort for this should not exceed € 1 million.
The described unique selling point offers the license holder the opportunity to establish and expand a continuously growing global demand = marketing after production begins through existing sales channels initially without competition. The investment risk for the different user groups, initially limited to 2-3 product lines, in contrast seems manageable.