FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Wireless Sensors Monitor Health

One of the most exciting and beneficial applications of "pervasive" or "ubiquitous" computing is its application in healthcare and home monitoring of patients. For years, experimental programs have allowed patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes to report their status through the Internet; a nurse or other clinician would read the incoming data and sound an alert if anything appeared out of line.

Now, the Imperial College of London has taken remote health monitoring to the next level with its Ubiquitous Monitoring Environment (UbiMon). An article in TheFeature describes how it works:
In the current prototype system, the patient wears a handful of coin-sized physiological sensors that deliver real-time readings on heart rate, temperature and blood pressure to a PDA or, potentially, a smartphone. If the system detects a serious problem, the patient will be alerted, the data will be delivered directly to his physician via the cellular network, and an ambulance may be called. Even if there's no immediate emergency, the various readings surrounding a flare-up are stored on a central server for the doctor to review later...

All of the real-time multi-sensory data is stored on a secure central server. As the patient database grows, the smarter it gets. The analysis of historical data from myriad patients wearing UbiMon systems can reveal early warning signs of danger before the damage is already done.

The main advantage in the UbiMon approach over earlier prototypes is that it's fully automatic. The patient doesn't need to remember to input information. Plus, some of the early experiments suggested that many patients (especially elderly ones) had trouble mastering basic computer skills.

The intent is to make UbiMon a context-aware system that "learns" as it monitors. As for the sensors, the Imperial College team is looking as both implanted monitors and less-invasive devices such as rings and earrings.

With our population aging, systems such as UbiMon will become not only a benefit, but a necessity.

Source: Beverly Tang