Enable Technology: Smart Cushion Project

What is the project about?

Pressure injuries, also known as pressure sores or bedsores, are where small to large areas of the skin and underlying tissue become damaged due to long periods of constant pressure and/or friction [1]. Typically these injuries just involve skin damage, necrosis (skin death) and/or damage of the surrounding muscle, bone or tendons but depending on the severity of the pressure injury there can be a range of complications [1,2,3]. These complications include conditions such as sepsis, which is when bacteria gets into the blood and spreads and cellulitis, which is an infection of the skin and connected tissue [1,2]. These conditions can cause further issues such as bone/joint infections, septic arthritis and even organ failure in the case of sepsis [1,2]. Not only can pressure injuries result in a number of complications and issues for the individual but they can also have a large impact on expenditure in the national health industry. According to a cost of illness study, the treatment cost of pressure injuries in 2012-13 was estimated to be $983 million each year which accounts for about 1.9% of all public hospital expenditure [4].

It is vitally important when approaching the issue of pressure injuries to focus on prevention over treatment as pressure injuries are far easier to prevent rather than treat [2]. The most straightforward prevention tactic is frequent repositioning as it allows the pressure to be relieved and avoids the situation in which pressure remains concentrated on vulnerable areas for extended periods of time [2]. The issue with this prevention tactic is that people often forget to regularly shift their position to relieve pressure or they are unable to feel the pressure build up due to a lack of sensation in the vulnerable areas. The aim of this project is to address these issues to assist in the prevention of pressure sores. Our current approach to address this challenge is to use a smart cushioning solution wherein the cushion measures the user’s pressure distribution and either informs the user to reposition when required or actively change itself to help relieve the pressure.

Who is involved?

Cameron Nelson, currently interning with Enable Development over the summer, Cameron is focusing on the development of a solution to tackle the challenge of pressure injuries.

What can you do?

If you are passionate about assistive technologies or if you or someone you know could benefit from this project, then please feel free to participate in our survey and share it with your friends. (survey link: http://goo.gl/forms/I8voh1vNoE)



[1] Better Health Channel Victoria, 2015, Pressure sores, Department of Health & Human Services, Accessed on 19/11/2015, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/pressure-sores

[2] Mayo Clinic Staff, 2015, Diseases and Conditions – Bedsores (pressure sores), Mayo Clinic, Accessed on 19/11/2015, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bedsores/basics/definition/con-20030848

[3] The Victorian Quality Council, October 2004, Preventing Pressure Ulcers – An information booklet for patients, Victorian Department of Human Services, Accessed on 20/11/2015, http://www.health.vic.gov.au/pressureulcers/downloads/ppu/english.pdf

[4] Nguyen, K-H. et al 2015, ‘Pressure injury in Australian public hospitals: a cost-of-illness study’, Australian Health Review, Volume 39, Issues 3, Pages 329-336

  • James F Murphy

    well is there any way to see this cushion so we can give you feed back??

    • Huy Nguyen

      Hi James,

      Thanks for following up on this. Apologies for slow reply as we recently return from our assistive technology study program in Singapore.

      We have only just started research before diving into development of any solutions (possibly even looking at more intelligent seating system). Whilst we’re at this preliminary stage, any ideas or insights would really help us.

      Cameron has also finished his internship with us so there might be a gap until our next researcher continues.

      Kind Regards,