Wearable computers to monitor health

Dec 14, 2012
A wearable wireless sensor can detect precursors of falls. The system would be used for fall prevention in the elderly.

(Phys.org)—Dr. Roozbeh Jafari, assistant professor of electrical engineering at UT Dallas, is developing wearable wireless computers that are about the size of a button. At that size, the system can be easily worn on the body, opening possibilities to improved health monitoring for the elderly and assistance in determining changes in medication dosage needs.

For this innovative idea, Dr. Jafari received a 2012 National Science Foundation CAREER (Faculty Early Career Development) award. The highly selective program funds research of junior faculty members who are considered likely to become leaders in their fields. Recipients are selected on the basis of creative early development plans that effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their respective institutions.

"Roozbeh Jafari has established a very dynamic, innovative laboratory in electrical engineering, that has bridged research challenges in brain- in a remarkable way," said Dr. John Hansen, associate dean for research in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. "While he has an extensive group of skilled graduate students supported, he has also included many undergraduate and visiting , which has enriched the experiences of many students in the Jonsson School."

The key to making the portable systems smaller is eliminating the bulky batteries used to process data and designing the entire system to use power more efficiently. Jafari's solution is to develop methods that would remove unnecessary data, to be used only for processing the most useful functions.  

"Signals and events observed from the human body tend to change slowly," said Jafari, director of the Embedded Systems and Signal Processing Lab and a member of the Texas Analog Center of Excellence (TxACE). "The physics and kinematics of the human body reduce the likelihood of random body signals and movements."

For example, if a wearable system is designed to detect precursors to falls in the elderly, the device wouldn't require much energy to determine that the person were in a sitting position and not at risk.

Jafari's research optimizes the use of power throughout the entire system, which includes biosensors that collect data from the human body and devices, such as microcontrollers, that process and communicate the information. The algorithms used could coordinate, manage and transmit information from various wearable computers. The amount of energy used by each biosensor could be targeted toward the sensitivity needed for the desired use.

While the applications of wearable computing systems are numerous, case studies suggest that fall prevention among the elderly and medication adjustments for people with Parkinson's disease hold significant promise. The financial toll of falls is estimated to be $54.9 billion per year by 2020, according to a 2006 study. Those numbers don't account for the fear of falling, which can lead to loss of confidence, restriction of physical activities and social isolation.

The positive effects of Parkinson's medications often taper off, not lasting from one dose to the next. Currently, about 1 million Americans suffer from Parkinson's disease, and that number is expected to triple in the coming decades, according to a 2008 study.

"Growing demand for health-care monitoring applications requires students, engineers and healthcare professionals to design, develop, deploy and operate wearable systems," Jafari said. "I am quite pleased to work with my excellent graduate and undergraduate students at UT Dallas to enable the next generation of wearable computers."

The $416,000 five-year-grant began earlier this year.

Explore further: Identifying long-distance threats: New 3D technology could improve CCTV images

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A body-centric perspective

Jul 06, 2011

Dr. Dominique Paul, a Research Fellow in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, was invited to present her work on wearable electronics at the recent Institution of Engineering and Technology ...

Testing the T-shirt antenna

Jun 30, 2011

NPL worked with BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre, to measure the pattern and efficiency of radiation emitted from next generation wearable antennas embedded in T-shirts.

Wearable technology can monitor rehabilitation

Dec 13, 2012

Wearable technology is not only for sports and fashion enthusiasts it can also be used to monitor and aid clinical rehabilitation according to new research published in BioMed Central's open access journal ...

Smart suit improves physical endurance

Jul 20, 2012

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University today announced that it has received a $2.6 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop ...

Wearable Computers Become More Powerful

Jul 22, 2004

The Industry Leading Wearable ViA IICT(TM) Computer is More Powerful With a Faster CPU and More Memory for Processor Intensive Computing, and With New Package Options to Increase the Breadth and Versatility of Mobile Compu ...

Wearable sensor technology to measure physical activity

Sep 15, 2010

Researchers from Michigan State University's departments of Electrical Engineering and Kinesiology are teaming up to create a new wearable sensor network to assess a person's physical activity and overall ...

Recommended for you

3D printed nose wins design award

13 hours ago

A Victoria University of Wellington design student is the New Zealand finalist for the James Dyson Award 2014 for his Master's project—a 3D printed prosthetic nose.

Engineering the Kelpies

13 hours ago

Recently, Falkirk in Scotland saw the opening of the Kelpies, two thirty metre high horse head sculptures either side of a lock in a new canal extension.

Technology on the catwalk

14 hours ago

Summer days bring thoughts of beach picnics, outdoor barbecues and pool parties. Yet it only takes the buzz of one tiny mosquito to dampen the fun.

Dismantling ships and the trajectory of steel

14 hours ago

Tell me how you dismantle a ship, and I'll tell how a region can prosper from its steel! This could be the motto of this master's cycle at ENAC during which the projects of two civil engineering students ...

User comments : 0