Permobil Launches Next-Generation SmartDrive Controls

It is the primary truth of complex rehab that no single solution works well for all wheelchair users. There’s simply too much diversity in diagnoses, progression, function, goals and environments for one product to work well for everyone.

Therefore, much of a complex rehab product’s success depends on its ability to meet users where they are. Many seating and wheeled mobility products accomplish that through modularity or adjustability.

Permobil’s SmartDrive accomplishes this by giving manual wheelchair users several ways to access and use its world-expanding technology.

A Seamless Power-Assist Experience

The SmartDrive power-assist system itself isn’t brand new, but its array of controls has continued to evolve, thereby making the system more accessible to a wider range of wheelchair users.

Permobil SmartDrive

The new PushTracker E2 and SwitchControl are the latest innovations designed to create a “seamless” power-assist experience, said Romit Jain, Communications Manager at Permobil AB. Earlier versions of driving controls required users to repeatedly tap their wheelchairs to activate and control SmartDrive. Now, Permobil has combined the SmartDrive MX2+ system with the PushTracker E2 smart watch and SwitchControl to offer greater flexibility in controlling the wheelchair and the power-assist system.

The smart watch enables hands-free, gesture-activated control of SmartDrive, and Permobil says this includes “greater performance and functionality than ever before.” Switch Control brings a momentary burst of power at the touch of a button; SwitchControl can also be used to provide consistent power over a longer period of time.

“As with all our solutions, the SmartDrive Push Tracker E2 was developed with the user in mind,” said Ben Hemkins, Director of Operations for SmartDrive. “Manual wheelchair users push their chairs thousands of times per day, which can lead to serious shoulder strain. With SmartDrive Push Tracker E2, it’s one tap, and you’re going.”

No-Upcharge Options

PushTracker E2’s key features include a Bluetooth connection that Permobil says is eight times more reliable than previously. Add to that a large touchscreen to improve visibility and usability by active wheelchair consumers, and upgraded hardware that stands up to the demands of those active users.

SwitchControl features programmable speeds available as momentary bursts or in latched modes. A custom switch upgrade is available, but the standard SwitchControl is available as a no-upcharge option. So is the PushTracker E2.

By offering these advances as standard options that don’t increase SmartDrive’s MSRP, Permobil is sharing innovative technology in real time, as it’s developed, to increase the number of people who can benefit. That mindset keeps pace with the general evolution of power-assist systems. Long considered primarily for veteran ultralightweight wheelchair users whose shoulders, arms and hands had been worn down over time, power-assist is now increasingly being seen as proactive technology that can benefit any self-propeller from the very beginning.

Power-assist is also being used to increase wheelchair users’ overall function and efficiency, to improve everyday mobility, regardless of terrain or task lists.

Julie Maloukis, a PushTracker E2 and SwitchControl user, said of the technology, “With the SmartDrive, I can go all around the farmer’s market, go to the grocery store, meet a friend for coffee, take my dog for a walk, go to the bookstore, and do a ton of other things when I get home. Using the SmartDrive now instead of waiting until I can’t push anymore just gives me more opportunities. I’ll be younger longer, and I’ll be happier and out in the world doing everything I wanted to do.”

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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