Daring Origins: Kenneth Shinozuka, Wearable Tech Innovator

Inspired by his family’s struggle to care for his ailing grandfather, 17-year-old Kenneth Shinozuka is devoting his ambitions to improving the safety of Americans suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. His breakthrough invention, a wearable sensor that provides safety to patients and peace of mind for caregivers, has garnered Shinozuka a great deal of accolade. Some day, he would like to see Alzheimer’s cured entirely.

As a child, Kenneth shared an unshakable bond with his grandfather, Deming. Deming taught Kenneth to read and sing, encouraged his affinity for tinkering, and provided guidance when Kenneth needed it most. When Kenneth reached the age of 4, Deming was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

“You don’t have to be a genius to make something helpful. You just need to be able to recognize problems in the world around you.”
Kenneth Shinozuka

Dementia as a whole affects over 5.2 million Americans, 60% of whom are estimated to wander. Shortly after being diagnosed, Kenneth’s grandfather began wandering about in the middle of the night. Kenneth recalls one evening in particular, in which police escorted Deming home after finding him walking alongside the freeway. As his wandering became more frequent, he suffered more and more fall injuries.

Kenneth knew he could channel his passion for technology into a life-changing solution. One night, as Kenneth was put on night watch for Deming, he witnessed his grandfather step out of bed and the solution became clear—Kenneth would attach a pressure sensor to the underside of his grandfather’s foot. When Deming would step onto the floor, an alert would be sent to his aunt’s smartphone.

But the disease affects more than just its victim, explains Kenneth. “It’s also very hard for my aunt, his primary caregiver, since she’s the one who volunteered to take care of him all the time.” His aunt quit her job in order to provide him with the constant care he requires.

Bringing this concept to fruition presented many challenges—Kenneth would need to familiarize himself with the mechanics of wireless circuitry, sensor technology, and app coding. The concern for his grandfather’s safety was the motivation that pushed him onward.

Kenneth and his family will never forget the moment the device first caught his grandfather’s wandering. Since then, Kenneth’s’ innovation has successfully detected every instance, and as a result, his grandfather hasn’t suffered any more injuries. Encouraged by his results, Kenneth decided to test the product on other ailing patients in a number of senior care facilities. The responses from the caregivers were enthusiastic.

In November of 2015, Kenneth introduced the world to the SafeWander Button Sensor, the latest iteration of his life-saving invention that detects wandering by monitoring changes in a patient’s body position. Today, his goal is to improve the quality of life for the millions of Dementia and fall-risk patients worldwide. Kenneth plans to invest his time in studying neuroscience, utilizing the advancements in technology to benefit America’s aging population.

Kenneth hopes his breakthrough will encourage other people to inspire change. “You don’t have to be a genius to make something helpful,” he says. “You just need to be able to recognize problems in the world around you.”

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