Tech savvy ageing

Future technologies are expected to play an important role in supporting independence in later life says one of the main findings click to enlargefrom research published this week in the UK. People aged 65 and over who have not grown up with technology around them, perhaps unsurprisingly, find it more difficult to master the latest technologies initially than younger groups do and there are concerns that society could become more inactive and too reliant on technology. This are some of the other main findings given in the report ‘How Tech Savvy are We?’  from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) in the UK.

Although the research was not focused on just the older age group there are some aspects which are particularly looking at this group of people.

There is no clear consensus on which of the six proposed technologies in the research would be most useful in later life – smart healthcare devices are rated most useful by 27%, whilst driver-less cars and robot help are deemed the most useful by only 10%. This suggests a possible disconnect between what industry is developing and what the public actually wants says the IET.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Chris Cartwright, Chair of the IET Information and Communications Sector, is quoted as saying: “It’s great to see strong public support and understanding for the potential benefits new technologies offer an ageing population. But it’s less encouraging that this support is still hindered by concerns around cost, lack of physical activity and loss of human contact. There is also a lack of clarity about which technologies people will find most useful, probably because they are unclear of the benefits.

(more…)

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

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…)

More UK older adults are now going online

Telehealth and telecare applications can often depend on the willingness of the users to use the click to enlargeinternet and that is not to be taken for granted with older users. On the other hand it is indeed the older people who can most benefit from these technologies. Recent research in the UK shows encouraging results in this respect.

Ofcom, the UK telecoms regulator, has a duty to promote media literacy and to carry out research to measure the usage of all forms media. The results of the most recent surveys commissioned by Ofcom were published on Tuesday. Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report 2014 is an encouraging report showing that the use of the internet by over-65s has increased by over a quarter over the past 12 months.

“The proportion of people aged over 65 that are accessing the web reached 42% in 2013, up nine percentage points from 33% in 2012. One reason found for this is an increase in the use of tablet computers by older people aged 65-74 to go online, up from 5% in 2012 to 17% in 2013. This has helped to drive overall internet use up from 79% of all adults in 2012 to 83% in 2013” say Ofcom.

“However, older people spend significantly less time surfing the web than younger people (16-24 year olds), who on average spend more than a whole day (24 hours 12 minutes) each week online. This compares to an average 9 hours 12 minutes online per week among adults over 65.”

Although these results are for the UK, they probably broadly represent the trends in most developed countries.

Number of older people to outstrip family carers by 2017 (UK)

The number of people requiring care in the UK is expected to outstrip the number of adult children click to enlargeand family members able to provide that care sometime in 2017 according to a new report released today.

Generation Strain: collective solutions to care in an aging societyis the result of research by the respected Institute of Public Policy Research. The authors note that most care for older people in the UK is provided by family at a value estimated to be £55 billion.  But with the changing demographics the number of adult children able to care for aging parents is diminishing and is expected to reach a break point in the UK in three years, meaning more dependency on already stretched state and private agencies and more people, specially women,  having to give up work to look after their parents.

The central message of the report is the need to transform the understanding of what social care is in order to help people live decent lives in their old age. With insufficient adult children to provide care for parents and more older people themselves becoming carers, the needs of the carers needs to be taken very seriously – social isolation and loneliness, need for transport  and shopping, for example.

The report proposes new neighbourhood networks to help people stay active and healthy and help busy families balance work and care.

These are social problems which can be mitigated, if not solved, by some of the trendy new technologies that we use daily with hardly a second thought but are often not seen as a high priority for the well being of the older person.

Other recommendations are replacement of the current case management process provided by local council adult social services, giving the older people, their families and carers direct access to some of the budget and changing employment rights so more people can continue to work and care.

A highly recommended read. The full report can be downloaded as a pdf from the link above.

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

The CES of Health (Friday)

Rounding up the 10 Ring Vegas Circus-Circus, it’s time for ‘best and worst lists’: hopping with the Kiwi tracker, no one’s kind to Mother, in the kitchen with 3D printers and what may be up with Google, FDA and contact lenses.

click to enlargeZDNet rounds up its Friday coverage with a Best of CES selection. It’s always interesting to get the broader non-healthcare techie view of ‘what’s hot’–they spotted fitness bands early when even diehard QSers were skeptical– and to then see if their picks make it into the broader market. Their health tech picks are the Mimo Baby onesie + detachable turtle monitor from Rest Devices (sure to be a hit at your next baby shower; TTA 10 Sept], movement profiler Notch(see Thursday; it also made The Guardian’s roundup), MakerBot’s home 3D Replicator Mini (Wednesday) and the Epson Moverio BT200 digital content projection smart glasses  (in-market March, @ $699.99 a bargain for what use?). Au contraire, see 11 born-to-fail worst gadgets which includes being mean to Sen.se’s Mother and, in worst design, an iPad video ‘periscope’ from iTOi which looked like it was stolen off the set of the 1956 space opera Forbidden Planet. For today’s market, it definitely could have used a steampunk vibe to carry off its ‘Blue Blazes’ design.

Yet one of their writers gives Mother, a/k/a the “M2M Mollycoddle”, “part-Russian doll and part-Doctor Who monster”, a more thoughtful once-over. (more…)

The CES of Health (Thursday)

Beaucoup fitness bands and wearables, an ‘all-in-one’ glucose meter and finally, a lack of hype!

click to enlargeMobihealthnews rounds up 18 mobile health launches in a slideshow format (a bit difficult to page through). It’s heavy on fitness monitor bands and wearables from well-known and startup companies at price points from the $100 range up well past $400:  Sony, LG, Garmin, Polar, Razer, Virgin Pulse (clipon), Lumo, iFit, Movea, Wellograph and Epson. (Also see Medgadget’s roundup if you can’t get enough!) Outside of fitness monitors: from China’s iHealth Lab (Andon Health), a blood pressure monitoring vest, an ambulatory ECG device that supposedly sticks to the wearer’s bare chest (no FDA approvals yet); Zensorium Tinke’s pulse oximeter plus for Android (seen by this Editor at New York CES in November 2012), the Qualcomm Life-backed YoFiMeter cellular glucose meter (more below) and the Medissimo Medipac GPS tracking pill box from France. Already covered here: Withings Aura, Qardio, Mother, Kolibree. (more…)

App helps guide the visually impaired

You may be familiar with the floor tapes used in large buildings to guide people to different areas or departments – click to enlargeI have seen these in many hospitals. A team in Italy’s University of Palermo have extended the idea to develop an inexpensive way to guide visually impaired people.

In a paper published last month Pierluigi Gallo and colleagues have described their work in developing Arianna, a system which can be used to guide people along complex paths (more…)

The CES of Health (Wednesday)

Qardio, Withings, CSR, iOptik, ‘Robotics on the Runway’, 3D printing and…Mother

click to enlargeQardio is making its official debut with the QardioArm blood pressure cuff and the QardioCore chest strap for monitoring EKG (plus heart rate, heart rate variability, physical activity intensity and skin temperature). Both were previewed by this Editor at CEWeek 2013 in June and do not yet have FDA nor CE approvalsA price for QardioCore was revealed in Business Insider–$449. QardioArm is listed at $75 on Indiegogo where $29,500 of their $100,000 goal was raised in the past three days. Video. Also MedCityNews.

click to enlargeWithings’ Z-Z-Z-Z market entry, the Aura, gets a fave rave at length from Dan Munro in Forbes, adding that the price will be $299. Its stationary aspect, nothing to wear and pricing makes it ideal for high-end QSers who don’t travel a lot or have multiple homes.  (more…)