Rubber Bands – The next big thing in wearable sensors?

Rubberbands

When you’re ten years old, pinging rubber bands across the classroom is fun. Getting caught doing so by your teacher is not. However you have to admit it’s kind of a novel use for those flexible little bands. Now Irish researchers may have upped the game by finding another, even more novel application for them.

The team at AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland-funded materials science centre, and the School of Physics TCD, working with researchers from the University of Surrey, have discovered a method of creating wearable sensors from shop-bought rubber bands. If you were listening back in class, you’ll remember that rubber doesn’t normally conduct electricity. However, the researchers whose findings have just been published in ACS Nano, a leading international nanoscience publication, discovered that by adding graphene the rubber bands became electrically conductive. In tests, the bands were strongly affected by any electrical current flowing through them if the band was stretched, which means tiny movements such as breath and pulse could be sensed by the technology.

The potential of graphene to be used in wearable sensors was noted by our TTA Editor-In-Chief, Donna, in her Pointer to the Future item back in 2011, Nanosheets and graphene: powering sensors, computers. Because rubber is available widely and cheaply, this latest development could open up major possibilities in the manufacturing of wearable sensors worldwide. Which means we can all look forward to finding graphene infused biosensors in everything from our bras to our bionic underpants.

Read more: TANN IrelandENGINEERING.com

Electronic Alerts in EHRs Reduce Urinary Tract Infections (Study – US)

According to the World Health Organisation, urinary tract infections (UTIs) win top prize for most frequent health care-associated infection in high-income countries. And the cause?…A massive 75% of all of hospital acquired UTIs result from having a urinary catheter fitted (i.e. a tube inserted into the bladder through the urethra to drain urine). And it’s far from unusual to have this procedure done, for between 15 to 25 percent of hospitalized patients have one fitted during their hospital stay (Source CDC). Having a urinary tract infection can be nasty enough but if left untreated serious consequences can result including permanent kidney damage.

The most effective way to reduce the incidence of UTIs (apart from not having a catheter fitted in the first place) is by removing the catheter as soon as it is no longer needed. Unfortunately, all too often this does not happen. That’s why the findings from this new study from the University of Pennsylvania are significant. Results showed that automated alerts in Electronic Health Records (EHRs) reduced urinary tract infections in hospital patients with urinary catheters.

The EHR alert system worked by prompting physicians to specify the reason for inserting the patient’s catheter. On the basis of the reason selected, the system then helped them decide (a) whether urinary catheters were needed in the first place and (b) alerted them to reassess the need for catheters that had not been removed within a recommended time period. And it was no small-fry study. (more…)

Colour changing ‘Bruise suit’ shows hidden injuries

Students from Imperial College of London have come up with a novel way to help athletes and people with disabilities, who might struggle to correctly assess the severity of an injury. Internal injuries often don’t give visible warning signs such as swelling or marks on the skin and if left untreated can be potentially life threatening. But where an impact occurs in the ‘Bruise suit’ a removable pressure reactive film registers it as a magenta stain. The colour changes to reflect the intensity of impact. Although currently a prototype, the team is exploring further applications for the technology and developing a product line. Read more: Wired 

Editor’s Note: There doesn’t seem to be any sound on the YouTube video for this at the moment!

 

Suicide-alert sensor for prisons – no wearables needed!

GE_prison-suicide_sensor

GE Global Research has developed a non-contact monitoring system for prisons that aims to alert staff of a suicide attempt in progress. It works by tracking inmate’s movements and vital signs – but without the need for a wearable monitoring device! To achieve this the research team modified standard radar equipment to pick up the delicate movements of the chest caused by breathing and heartbeat.

The system which is designed to be mounted inside a prison cell could be an effective way to monitor at-risk individuals, without resorting to more expensive or more intrusive surveillance solutions. The US Department of Justice funded study proved to be 86 per cent accurate at determining whether someone required assistance.

The final technical report of the three part study is available in full at the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS). GE is now exploring ways to commercialise the system in prisons and other settings. Read more: New ScientistNational Institute of Justice

Addiction: Improving Outcomes using Computer-based Therapy

Computer-Based-Behavioral-Therapy-Shows-Promise-For-Addiction-Treatment

A recent randomised control trial gives support to the use of computer-based therapy for treatment of addictions. The results were reported this week at the annual convention of the Association for Psychological Science in San Francisco, following publication in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Although the trial focused specifically on cocaine-dependent individuals, it replicates findings of a RCT carried out in 2008, in which participants had a wider range of substance addictions.

Results of this latest study show that those who received computer-assisted therapy were significantly more likely to attain three or more consecutive weeks of abstinence from cocaine as compared to those not receiving any form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – 36% compared with 17%. And the effects appear to last; the control group also had better outcomes six months after treatment had ended.

Individuals who receive CBT learn to identify and correct problematic behaviours by applying a range of techniques.  Central elements of the therapy include anticipating likely problems, correcting harmful thought patterns, and developing effective coping strategies. The techniques enable people to counteract addiction’s powerful effects on the brain, so they can regain control of their behaviour and lives. (more…)

Insomnia Apps: A replacement for sleeping pills?

sleepstation

For those of us suffering from insomnia there’s no denying it can be a real pain! For some it means wakening up a number of times throughout the night, while others are unable to get back to sleep after only a few hours rest. In my case it means drifting off into a peaceful slumber before inevitably waking just minutes later with a jolt, looking like Frankenstein’s monster and wondering if someone just hit me up the face with a bolt of lightning!

The latest NHS approved sleep app is Sleepstation. It’s one of three listed on the NHS Choices Health Apps website, the others are Sleepio and Sleep Diary. (more…)

Apple patents built in emergency alert for iPhone

Apple have filed a patent for a “Mobile emergency attack and failsafe detection” which uses the iPhone’s inbuilt sensors to detect a probable emergency situation, such as a physical attack against the user.  When the device is in ‘attack detection mode’, certain events can cause it to request help automatically, by calling a defined emergency contact or the emergency services. The GPS co-ordinates can also be transmitted. Apple Insider

A focus on Parkinson’s with Google Glass

Some pretty exciting work is happening at Newcastle University’s Digital Interaction Group with researchers evaluating the potential of Google Glass to support people with Parkinson’s. Much of the work is relevant to other conditions that affect movement, including Stroke and Multiple Sclerosis.

The great thing about Google Glass for people with motor control problems such as tremors, is that it gets around the difficulties in trying to negotiate the touch screen of a phone, or when trying to press a panic button. This is because the technology can be voice-operated and links to the internet. So in an emergency you can just tell it to call someone and it will. (more…)

Apple patents health monitoring headphones with ‘head gesture’ control

click to enlargeAnother reminder of Apple’s growing interest in the health monitoring and fitness space is the news that the company has just been granted a patent for a “Sports monitoring system for headphones, earbuds and/or headsets” (U.S. Patent No. 8,655,004). The biometric headphone system can sense a number of metrics including temperature, heart rate and perspiration levels. It also contains ‘head gesture’ control which could allow users to change music tracks and adjust volume by tilting or rotating their head. Read more in Apple Insider.

Related TTA posts: Sensor-based monitoring coming to an iPhone near you? /  Wearable technology – so much choice, so much data to sell? / Turn up, tune in but don’t drop out with health monitoring earphones

 

DARPA’s $45million program to mine health data

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has just announced they are soliciting research proposals for a data mining/bioinformatics program to research the biology of cancer and signal pathways for cancer cells.

The anticipated budget for the “Big Mechanism” program is $45M over 42 months. The idea is to mine through worldwide scientific research on cancer, in order to find patterns within that mass of information which can be meaningfully interpreted. By the final 12 months of the project, mechanism developers should be able to identify targets for therapy based on their findings from the data.

The full text of the announcement tells us that although the domain of the Big Mechanisms program is cancer biology and systems biology, the goal of the program is to develop the capacity to integrate data/research more generally – more or less immediately – automatically or semi-automatically – into causal, explanatory models.

Read more: Military Times

Motorola files patent for Emergency Alert – Neck Tattoo!

throat tattooAnother pointer to the future in the world of wearable tech is this patent filed by Google-owned Motorola, for a throat ‘tattoo’, with the capability to send automatic alerts with location information to a monitoring centre or the emergency services (though the patent filing is drafted much wider!).

The ‘tattoo’ idea isn’t as dramatic as it first appears, as the filing states it can be applied to the skin via an adhesive, or embedded in a collar or neck-band. The way it would work is by capturing the sound from a person’s throat and transmitting it to a nearby smartphone or other Mobile Communications Device (MDC). (more…)

Sony files SmartWig patent!

smartwigHere we have a patent filed by Sony for a sensor-laden hairpiece/wig. There are three prototypes; the Presentation Wig which has a laser pointer and allows you to change PowerPoint slides by simply pushing the sideburns – this would brighten up presentations no end ;-), the Navigation Wig which uses a GPS and vibration to direct the user, and the Sensing Wig which contains sensors to take physiological readings such as temperature and blood pressure. (more…)

US telemedicine project trials in Ireland

Consultants and GPs in Ireland are to participate in three pilot care delivery projects based on a US telemedicine initiative called Project ECHO. It is estimated that replication of the project in Ireland could deliver an estimated €20 million in healthcare savings.

The way ECHO works is by providing primary care providers such as GPs with training in medical conditions that would otherwise be treatable only by specialists. This is done through a model of ‘guided practice’ and mentoring using video-conferencing technology. Read more… TANN Ireland

Patients’ records could be shared between NI and New York for clinical trials!

Patients’ records could be shared between Northern Ireland and New York as part of a proposal to improve healthcare and research. NI Health Minister, Edwin Poots was recently in the US for high-level talks about developing the collaboration with the New York State Health Department. Read more… TANN Ireland

Editor Donna note: Though not stated, this well could take advantage of the expansion of the SHIN-NY health information exchange (HIE) connecting hospitals, medical practices and nursing homes along with medication and management interfaces. See NYeC Digital Health Conference 2013, especially the link to the HITECH Answers article which has more information on SHIN-NY. 

Temperature sensing chip implanted in man’s arm

A biohacker called Tim Cannon, has had a computer embedded in his forearm, to allow his bodily data to be monitored. The device called Circadia 1.0 was built by Tim and colleagues from Grindhouse Wetware. In this first version, the chip records body temperature and transfers it in real time via Bluetooth to any Android-powered mobile device. Three LEDs built into the package serve as status lights (which glow visibly under the skin). The device’s battery charges wirelessly.

Because a regular surgeon wouldn’t be allowed to carry out the implant as it is unapproved by medical authorities, Tim relied on the expertise of body modification enthusiasts to implant the device! …Yes, it’s a bit crude, but more likely than not is another small step towards our cyborg future!

[This video is no longer available on this site but may be findable via an internet search]

Read more: PSFK / Time