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Smart Floors: What Are They, And What Can They Do?

Erin Gobler6-minute read
UPDATED: November 08, 2022

Imagine you’ve been home from the hospital for a few days when you finally find the energy to get out of bed, walk to the kitchen and make a bowl of soup. On the way to the kitchen, you trip, slip and drop to the ground. Although no one is home to help, the floor beneath you realizes what has happened and calls for an ambulance to race to your aid.

No, this isn’t the opening scene of a science fiction movie. As the internet and sensor technology increasingly permeate the home, the “smart floor” has already become part of the technological wave. Smart floors have the potential to change building designs, floor layouts, furniture styles and the way people facing medical challenges receive care.

Let’s take a closer look at what exactly a smart floor is and what it can do.

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What Is Smart Flooring?

Smart floors are high-tech floors that have sensors and electronics that detect movement, weight pressure and other data to help improve security, construction methods, traffic flow, interior design and more. Smart floors also can generate electricity by movement or turn on lights when sensors indicate someone has entered the room.

Because of their many uses — which we’ll talk more about below — smart floors can be useful in homes, but also in hospitals. This type of flooring can detect falls, count steps and ultimately lower health care costs, among other things.

How Does A Smart Floor Work?

On the outside, smart flooring looks just like any other type of floor. But underneath the top layer of flooring is a thin textile-based underlay made up of sensors. When someone walks on the floor, those sensors send radio signals to a central data source.

The smart floor tiles under the floor can also detect and differentiate different types of movement. For example, it could tell the difference between someone simply stepping on the floor versus someone falling. And the exact function of a smart floor can be customized depending on where and by whom it's being used.

For example, someone installing smart flooring in their home may want different features and functions than a hospital installing this type of flooring in its patient rooms.

What Can Smart Flooring Do?

We’ve already talked a bit about how smart floor technology works and some of its uses, but in this section, we’ll dive into a more comprehensive list of what smart flooring can do.

Detect Falls

One of the major benefits of smart flooring is that it can detect falls and even send an alarm signal when someone has fallen. The sensors beneath the floor can detect different types of pressures. It can tell the difference between someone stepping on the floor and someone falling. For that reason, this flooring can be useful in hospitals or nursing homes where there’s a greater risk of falls by patients.

Additionally, it can be a great option in individual homes where elderly homeowners live and are at risk of falling. In fact, this type of flooring may even help older individuals to stay in their homes longer, since someone will know right away if they’ve fallen.

Track Movement

Another task that smart floors can accomplish is tracking movements. Like fall detection, this feature can be useful in homes with elderly residents. They may even be set up to let a resident know when they’ve taken a wrong turn in their home. And for all homeowners, smart flooring can track your movements to turn on lighting in the rooms you’re headed into.

The movement tracking features in smart flooring aren’t just useful for individuals. For example, some retailers have considered smart floors to detect the path people follow in a store. This can help the retailer to improve the floor plan of their store.

Generate Power

One of the lesser-known benefits of smart floors is their ability to generate power. For example, Heathrow Airport has a corridor with smart flooring. As people walk along the floor, it captures the kinetic energy from their footsteps and turns it into usable energy. That electricity can then be used to help power parts of their airport.

This energy generation doesn’t just work at Heathrow Airport. As more people look to incorporate alternative power sources into their homes, individuals could accomplish the same smart flooring benefit at home, using their movements around their homes to help run their electricity.

Lower Health Care Costs

The senior population in the United States and around the world is growing rapidly, as are health care costs. Smart flooring could be just one tool to help reduce those health care costs for individuals and organizations. Smart flooring can be used to create efficiencies within health care buildings.

They can also be used within people’s homes to send alerts when there’s a fall, help elderly residents stick to their daily routines, and even help them to stay in their homes longer rather than incurring the costs associated with nursing homes and other assisted living facilities.

Reduce False Alarms

If you have a security system in your home, then you may have experienced a time when the system sends out a false alarm, leading you to believe there’s an intruder in your home when there isn’t — and possibly even calling 911 to respond.

Another benefit of smart flooring is it can help you determine whether there’s really an intruder in the house. When smart floors are used in combination with your home’s alarm system, the movement and weight sensors of the floor sensors will detect if someone is in the home.

Count Steps

Another function that smart flooring can serve is to count your steps. The flooring can count your total number of steps, as well as to detect when someone is taking steps on a certain part of the home.

Turn On Lights

Do you want your home to turn on lights before you enter a given room? Smart flooring can help with that. Because it tracks your movements, it can detect when you’re about to enter a certain room and can activate your motion-sensor floor lamps. You won’t have to worry about walking through a dark home or about turning on the lights yourself.

Temperature Control

Just like your smart flooring can be used to control your lights, it can also be used for temperature control. Your smart floors can detect when you’re home each day. Then you can set up an automation where your air conditioning turns on at that time.

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Who Uses Smart Floors?

Because there are so many different uses, smart floors can be used in a variety of places. Some of the most common early uses for this technology are in hospitals, but there are also uses in retail stores and other public locations. Additionally, smart floors can be very useful in homes thanks to features like fall detection, light and temperature control, and more.

How Is Smart Flooring Installed In A Home?

Smart flooring refers to the textile-based layer of sensors that are found underneath the flooring. And because it goes under the top layer, smart flooring can actually be used with any type of flooring. You can pair it with laminate, linoleum, carpet and more.

As a homeowner, you can hire a professional to install your smart flooring just as you would any other type of flooring. However, there is also the option for DIY installation. When you purchase your smart floor tiles, you should also receive DIY installation instructions to help you.

How Much Does Smart Flooring Cost?

It probably doesn't come as much of a surprise that smart flooring costs more than the standard laminate or carpeting that you would install in your home. As a result, it’s still used primarily by companies and organizations such as hospitals, nursing homes, and retailers. However, as smart flooring becomes more common, the price point may also become more affordable. Additionally, smart flooring may still be more affordable than some residential flooring options, including solid wood or stone.

Where Can You Buy A Smart Floor System?

Because smart flooring is still a fairly new concept, it’s difficult to simply walk into your local hardware store and purchase it. That being said, there are companies that specialize in this type of flooring. For example, SensFloor from Future Shape is one of the most popular smart floor options. At this time the company primarily specializes in healthcare settings, but you can also purchase it for your own home.

The Bottom Line

Smart flooring refers to the unique technology of floor tiles made with sensors that sit under your top layer of flooring. Smart floors come with plenty of functions and benefits, including fall detection, movement tracking, security, and even light and temperature control. Installing smart flooring in your home can help create the automated smart home you’ve been hoping for.

Smart flooring is still a relatively new — and expensive — concept that’s often found in health care settings, but you can also purchase it for your home. And as you’re planning out your smart home, learn more about smart technology upgrades that you can make to increase your home’s function and value.

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Erin Gobler

Erin Gobler is a freelance personal finance expert and writer who has been publishing content online for nearly a decade. She specializes in financial topics like mortgages, investing, and credit cards. Erin's work has appeared in publications like Fox Business, NextAdvisor, Credit Karma, and more.