IBM has recently been awarded a patent, originally applied for in February 2009, that covers an intelligent floor.
The patent describes a “room-sized multi-touch input device” that can identify weight and shapes and gives two possible applications for such a device. The first is surveillance, with the smart floor detecting when an unauthorised person or persons has entered a home. The second concerns healthcare. The multi-touch floor could detect when a person is lying prone on the floor and, by retrieving the person’s heart rate, ascertain whether there is a health emergency and possibly contact emergency services.
Whether a gadget-crazy world is ready to turn the surfaces they walk on every day into a gigantic touch-screen, should IBM ever put this patent into production, remains to be seen. There are obvious benefits to such technology but there would also be many new privacy issues to consider.