Presently described are several alternate embodiments for shield
devices to enclose and thereby prevent entrapment of objects in
the interior space formed by elements of an adjustable bed in the
raised position. Such shield devices may include physical barriers.
In other embodiments, the shield may include optical sensors that
provide rapid detection of intruding objects, thereby activating
controls that preclude the further movement of the adjustable bed
mechanism. In a further embodiment, an operative shield may be provided
by means of a specially adapted controller configured such that
only an authorized user can cause the adjustable bed to operate,
thereby preventing the possibility that the bed could be operated
while any object has intruded into the interior space.
1. An apparatus for shielding the inner works of an adjustable
bed, said adjustable bed having a frame and a moveable sleeping
element that articulates relative to said frame, comprising: an
optical shield having at least one emitter emitting at least one
optical beam, said at least one emitter disposed on the frame or
the moveable sleeping element, and at least one detector that detects
the at least one emitted optical beam, wherein said at least one
beam defines a shielded space within said frame, said flexible shield
member and said moveable sleeping element throughout said articulation
of said moveable sleeping element, inhibiting said articulation
whenever any of the at least one beam fails to be detected at said
2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the at least one emitter and
the at least one detector are disposed on the frame, and further
including a reflector disposed on the moveable sleeping element,
said reflector reflecting the at least one optical beam back to
a corresponding one of the at least one detector.
3. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the at least one emitter and
the at least one detector are disposed on the moveable sleeping
element, and further including a reflector disposed on the frame,
said reflector reflecting the at least one optical beam back to
a corresponding one of the at least one detector.
4. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the at least one emitter is
disposed on the frame and the at least one detector is disposed
on the moveable sleeping element.
5. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the at least one emitter is
disposed on the moveable sleeping element and the at least one detector
is disposed on the frame.
6. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said optical shield encompasses
the head and at least an adjacent portion of each of the two sides
of said bed.
7. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said optical shield encompasses
the foot and at least an adjacent portion of each of the two sides
of said bed.
8. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the operative shield has an
operative mode and an inoperative mode, said inoperative mode being
triggered when the at least one beam fails to be detected at said
corresponding detector, wherein said articulation is precluded when
in said inoperative mode and said articulation is permitted when
in said operative mode.
9. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said operative shield further
comprises a keypad-controlled switch.
10. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said operative shield further
comprises a biometric sensor-controlled switch.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 1. Field of the Invention
 The present invention relates to protective guards and safety
sensors for use with adjustable bed mechanisms.
 2. Description of the Related Art
 Certain classes of adjustable beds are well known in the
art, typified by conventional fully-articulated hospital beds made
by Maxwell and Hill-Rom. These beds generally consist of open steel
frames with numerous articulating arms to raise or lower the entire
bed platform, the head area, and/or the foot area. Such beds are
very heavy and very expensive.
 There has been a recent trend in the consumer market to
introduce a degree of adjustability into consumer beds for home
use. These beds are generally lighter and more compact. There is
a risk, however, that the adjustable elements, such as the head
or foot portion of the bed, may leave exposed open cavities which
can entrap bedclothes or other objects.
 What is needed is an apparatus to enclose or otherwise protectively
screen off the interior spaces of consumer-market adjustable beds.
Preferably such an apparatus is simple to install yet difficult
 Presently described are several alternate embodiments for
a shield apparatus to enclose the interior spaces or cavities formed
in adjustable beds when their sleeping surfaces are in the raised
(up) position. These shield devices may include both physical barriers
that prevent any object from intruding into the open space formed
by raised portions of an adjustable bed as well as optical sensors
that provide near-instantaneous detection of object intrusion and
automatic cessation of further articulation or movement of the adjustable
bed. In a further embodiment, the shielding function may be achieved
by means of a controller that only authorized users are able to
access and thereby cause the adjustable bed to articulate. Such
an embodiment precludes the possibility that the bed could be operated
while any object has intruded into the bed space and thus prevent
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 The present disclosure may be better understood and its
numerous features and advantages made apparent to those skilled
in the art by referencing the accompanying drawings.
 FIG. 1 is a side view of an adjustable bed employing a rigid
or semi-rigid shield, according to one embodiment of the present
 FIG. 2 is an isometric view of an adjustable bed employing
a light curtain shield, according to one embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 3 is schematic representation of a access key-coded
remote control, according to one embodiment of the present invention.
 The use of the same reference symbols in different drawings
indicates similar or identical items.
 In one type of consumer adjustable bed system, the sleeping
surface actuation mechanism is fully enclosed within a bed platform.
This bed platform then fits directly into a conventional bed frame
so that, when the bed is in a flat or retracted position it looks
just as any other normal bed or mattress. When actuated by a controller,
however, the head and/or the foot can be raised (or articulated)
independently of one another or the rest of the sleeping surface.
 Raising the head or the foot area leaves an open space between
the raised mattress (the "sleeping surface") and the interior
of the bed frame. The articulation mechanism is thus exposed within
the open space. If the mechanical designs of an adjustable bed mechanism
leaves the spaces between articulating components accessible in
such situations, the risk of an entrapment hazard may arise. While
electronic controls designed to prevent excess pressure from being
applied by the electric motors conventionally employed for articulation
are well known, such devices do not prevent entrapment; they can
only limit the severity of injury.
 In accordance with several embodiments of the present invention,
a new concept in adjustable bed shielding is herein described. In
a first embodiment, shown in FIG. 1 a set of rigid, interlocking
guard members 110 120 and 130 are placed around the head end 107
of the bed, such that when the head is raised the "clamshell"
or nested interlocking sections 110-130 extend to block off all
access at the head of the bed and on both adjacent sides to the
interstitial space between the sleeping surface 175 and the bed
frame 105. Clamshell sections 110 120 and 130 (shown here as three
sections only for purposes of clarity; one of ordinary skill in
the art will recognize that more or fewer sections could also be
used) are shown in the up, articulated position.
 Bed frame 105 is further protected by bottom guard 140 so
that objects or people cannot enter into the shielded mechanism
area within bed frame 105 and guard sections 110 through 130. Likewise,
on an adjustable bed equipped with an articulating foot section
109 a similar foot guard 150 which may be composed of one or more
interlocking and or nested members such as sections 110 may be
employed. In this way, a person resting on sleeping surface 175
may adjust, through use of a remote control (not shown), the bed
into any comfortable position. At the same time, however, the open
spaces underneath the sleeping surface and inside the bed frame
105 are protected by guard panels 110 through 130 140 and 150.
 The guard sections 110 through 130 and 150 maybe composed
of rigid polymer or other plastic material. Alternatively, heavy
textile fabrics for other stiff and impenetrable materials may be
used. Flexibility and impenetrability are desirous because the guards
need to move repeatedly over the lifetime of the adjustable bed,
yet they must not allow objects to poke through into the shielded
space. In this context, the undesirable "poke through"
includes perforation as well as flexible deformation of the shield
material such at the deforming object enters the shielded space
and is thus placed in danger of entrapment. In general, a desirable
feature of such guard materials is that any pressure placed upon
them should not allow the pressing object to intrude into the articulating
mechanism in any way.
 Bottom guard 140 may also be composed of rigid polymer or
textile fabric material. As bottom guard 140 extends across a substantially
flat surface, a number of materials may be used as are conventionally
seen in closing out the bottoms of box springs or bed components.
 FIG. 2 shows an alternate embodiment for an adjustable bed
shield mechanism. Here bed 105 is shown in semi transparent form
so that one can see through sleeping surface 175 to the interior
of the adjustable bed mechanism space 205. Sensors 210 mounted inside
bed 105 are activated when sleeping surface 175 is raised. FIG.
2 shows only the head portion of sleeping surface 175 for clarity.
Sensors 210 which may comprise from one to ten or even more sensors,
provide an optical curtain between the edge of bed frame 105 and
the lower portion of sleeping surface 175. "Optical curtain"
is here understood to mean any web or set of optical sensors, although
a continuous field is not necessary nor implied.
 Sensors 210 may be conventional optical emitter/detector
units as are commonly used in industrial controls and safety systems.
For example, as required by current federal law, all garage door
openers must have "electric eye" sensors that both emit
and detect an optical beam. If the beam is interrupted, circuitry
within the opener systems prevent the door from closing. Some of
these sensors are commonly known to use a combined beam emitter/detector
unit on one side of the opening and a reflector on the other, so
that the emitted beam is reflected back to the receiver when the
opening is clear of obstructions. Other conventional systems employ
separate emitter and detector pairs. Although a combined emitter/detector
and reflector combination is described herein, those skilled in
the art will realize that emitters and detectors in various conventional
configurations can be used. Accordingly, the invention is not limited
to any particular type of optical sensor.
 In an exemplary embodiment, when a user attempts to lower
an articulated portion of the bed (e.g., the head or the foot) and
the beam in any one of optical sensors 210 is interrupted, the articulation
mechanism stops, thereby preventing entrapment.
 It should be understood in this context the use of the terms
electric eye, light curtain, or optical sensor are interchangeable.
All of these devices function by means of one or more optical beams
and one or more detectors that sense the presence of the beam(s)
emitted by one or more distant emitters, as described above. In
operation, such sensors typically provide a "closed circuit"
or "safe" signal when the beam is emitted and received.
That signal ceases or is interrupted when the beam is interrupted.
This may occur either because the beam emitter has failed or the
receiver can no longer see the beam, as when something has interposed
itself between the emitter and the receiver. Regardless of the cause
of the interruption of the signal, a mechanism conventionally controlled
or regulated by such sensor devices then ceases operating.
 In the third embodiment of a shielding apparatus for an
adjustable bed, the above-described conventional remote control
may be modified so that it can only be operated by authorized users.
As well-known in the art, remote controls (either wired or wireless)
are often used with adjustable beds. However, in the hospital bed
context, such devices are often kept out of reach of patients and
are not available to the casual user. In the context of a consumer
product, however, an additional measure of safety is desired. Accordingly,
in one embodiment of the present invention, a specialized remote
control is adapted to require the entry of a key code or "PIN"
number in order to unlock the movement functions of the bed. FIG.
3 shows a rough schematic mock-up of such a modified remote control.
Those of ordinary skill in the art may of course recognize that
remote controls may take many shapes and forms. The necessary features
described with regard to FIG. 3 can therefore appear under many
different guises and still fall within the scope and spirit of the
 Remote control 300 consists of a numeric key pad area 310
shown by a dotted line, unlock key 315 and lock key 320. In an
exemplary embodiment, when the user enters a multi-digit PIN code
with key pad 310 and depresses the unlock key 315 articulation
control buttons 330 are activated and the bed may be adjusted. In
some embodiments, after a preset time-out the unit reverts to a
locked state. In an alternative embodiment, the unit can be left
unlocked by the user and locked simply by depressing the locked
key at any time, so that that user may prevent children or other
unauthorized persons from adjusting the bed.
 Although a remote control device in the general form of
a television remote is shown, one of ordinary skill in the art will
recognize that many other forms are possible. For example (and not
by way of limitation), remotes using biometric or fingerprint identification
could be programmed ("keyed") to individual users, thereby
eliminating the need for keypads. Switches, such as the well-known
rocker switch, instead of a keypad could also be used. Alternatively,
knobs, dials, or studs could be manipulated in a pattern to unlock
the remote control functions. In a further alternate embodiment,
a remote control mechanism similar to mechanism 300 shown in FIG.
3 may be fitted with a special mechanical key device so that it
can only be operated when a physical key is in place. In such embodiments,
the user can disable the bed by simply removing the key and storing
it in a safe place. Accordingly, the scope of the invention is not
limited to any single form of lockable remote control that can render
an adjustable be inoperative.
 While particular embodiments of the present invention have
been shown and described, it will be apparent to those skilled in
the art that changes and modifications may be made without departing
from this invention in its broader aspect and, therefore, the appended
claims are to encompass within their scope all such changes and
modifications as fall within the true spirit of this invention.