The Year of the Sensor, round 2: COVID contact tracing + sensor wearables in LTC facilities; Ireland’s long and pivoting road to a contact tracing app

Wearables + sensors being used in long-term/post-acute care facilities for COVID contact tracing, decontamination. Historically ‘unsexy’ to digital health techies, long-term and post-acute care (LTPAC) came into sharp focus as the epicenter of COVID-19 deaths in the past four months. 45 percent of US COVID-19 deaths (over 54,000) occurred in nursing homes and assisted living residences, with the percentages being far higher in states like New Hampshire and Rhode Island (80%), Massachusetts and Connecticut (63%), Pennsylvania (68%), and New Jersey (48%). Freopp.org has a wealth of state-level information.

This created opportunities for companies that already had relationships with LTPAC to create systems to 1) contact trace individuals and residents, 2) trace locations not only of residents and staff but also contaminated areas, and 3) help focus ongoing decontamination and sanitization efforts. Featured in this surprising TechRepublic article is CarePredict, which back in March started to develop a response to COVID spread including what they dubbed the PinPoint Toolset. CarePredict already had in place a sensor-based system for residents that consolidated sensors into a wrist-worn resident ADL tracker with location and machine learning creating predictive health analytics that appear in a dashboard form. They expanded their analytics to staff and visitor contact plus locating frequently visited area by residents and staff so that decontamination efforts can be focused there. Also featured in the article are VIRI (website) and Quuppa, a real-time locating system (RTLS) repurposed from manufacturing and security. (Disclosure: Editor Donna consulted for CarePredict in 2017-18)

Ireland’s long and winding road to a national contact tracing app is the subject of an article in ZDNet. Waterford-based NearForm was called in by Ireland’s Health Services Executive (HSE) on week 1 of the lockdown and started work immediately. They had a prototype oapp running on a mobile phone by the end of the week, nonfunctioning but giving the HSE a look at the user interface. NearForm worked on a centralized model first, which was basically terminated by Apple’s insistence on blocking BTE, then in April pivoted to the decentralized Apple-Google (Gapple? AppGoo?) Exposure Notification system, once the HSE secured beta access to the new technology. By 7 July, Ireland launched and had over a million downloads in 48 hours. Germany had a similar saga and timing. Both Ireland, Germany, and other countries moved quickly to adopt Apple and Google’s APIs, when Apple blocked their original centralized app methodology. UK and NHSX did not pivot and are In The Lurch with Test and Trace [TTA 18 June, more deconstruction in VentureBeat]. Editor’s Note to Matt: go to your neighbor island, don’t be shy, and make a deal deal’ for the app. Solves that problem. 

Your temporary tattoo, now with vital signs monitoring!

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/graphene-tattoo.jpeg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Can you ever be too rich or too thin? The latter seems to be achievable when it comes to skin patches which can monitor key vital signs like skin temperature, take electroencephalography (EEG) and electromyography (EMG for muscles), and measure hydration. The graphene used in this sensor developed by University of Texas at Austin is 0.3-nm thick, in a polymer 463-nm thick. Unlike Stanford’s stretchy sensor we profiled in November, this doesn’t stretch, but is so thin as to be highly unobtrusive. It is made by growing single-layer graphene on a copper sheet, which is then coated by a stretchy support polymer. The copper is etched off and the polymer-graphene placed on temporary tattoo paper. The wearer doesn’t sense it because, as the researchers termed it, it is compliant with the nooks and crannies of human skin–and it doesn’t look obnoxious. It can be placed on the chest, on the arm or other locations as needed. Testing indicated good quality signals and in fact, detected EKG signals not registering on a conventional monitor. Presented at IEEE’s International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM). IEEE Spectrum

Using sensors to speed scientific experimentation

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/lab-experiment-equipment.jpg” thumb_width=”200″ /]A Boston-based startup with some impressive backing, Elemental Machines, is seeking to solve the variability problems that hinder scientific experimentation, particularly in drug development. Misfit and AgaMetrix founders Sonny Vu and Sridhar Iyengar join co-founders Elicia Wong and Gary Tsai in raising $2.5 million in seed funding, with investors including Founders Fund, backer of SpaceX and Lyft. The company’s purpose is to develop sensors (called “elements”) sending data interpreted by cloud-based software that will help scientists better detect and control for the most common variable factors that take place during experiments–temperature, humidity, vibration, light, instrumentation and protocols. The goal is to accelerate the experiment and research process so that drugs, devices and products make it to market (eventually) faster and less expensively. BostInno, TechCrunch

NHS England announces 7 “Test Beds”

NHS England has announced a series of “Innovation Test Beds” that will be used to “harness technology to address some of the most complex issues facing patients and the health service”.

“Front-line health and care workers in seven areas will pioneer and evaluate the use of novel combinations of interconnected devices such as wearable monitors, data analysis and ways of working which will help patients stay well and monitor their conditions themselves at home”, according to the NHS press release. (more…)

A ‘feel-good’ car seat to reduce driver stress

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/gimlet-eye.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]In-car massage and therapy? A notion that gets The Gimlet Eye off the beach…again! Now a Canadian (HQ’d France) auto design company (sixth largest globally) gets into the wellness act with a prototype car seat that when you are stressed, gives you 1) a specific massage and 2) more refreshing air. Sensors built into the seat monitor respiration and heart rate, gauging stress and energy level. If your energy is low, you get an energizing massage; stressed, a relaxing one. Faurecia’s ‘Active Wellness’ seat was announced at the big Frankfurt Auto Show, and while it didn’t drown out the breathless hubbub around Volkswagen’s dodgy diesel emissions (turn on that refreshing air!), it made the Drudge Report. The non-contact sensors are from Hoana Medical in the US; Faurecia also worked with the Spine Research Institute at Ohio State University to develop the algorithms and signal processing. It also connects to wearable fitness devices so the ‘read’ begins when you start ‘er up. While Eye have no need for any of this being A Million Miles From Dull Care on A Dot On The Map, the poor New Yorkers living through this week’s UN General Assembly/Pope Francis Traffic Disaster do today and almost every day. But they’ll have to wait till 2020. Yahoo!Canada

Smartphone and sensors the latest ‘medic’ for diagnosing battlefield TBI

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ahead-200.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Finally a more reliable device for combat medics to screen for TBI in the field. The US Department of Defense, before its EHR bombshell (so to speak) yesterday, issued this short Armed With Science article on a sensor-smartphone for quick field diagnosis of TBI. The FDA-cleared BrainScope Ahead 200 marries an Android smartphone with a headset and disposable sensors to measure brain electrical activity, The app in the smartphone then analyses the brain data using algorithms to correlate them to elements relating to TBI. Currently, most combat-related TBI tests are subjective, based purely on symptoms such as headaches, nausea and light sensitivity. The only ‘objective’ test would be a CT scan in a medical facility well off the front lines, which means time wasted in a definitive diagnosis. This is being implemented by the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

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

Now a sensor for healthier necks and spines (TW/CN)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/fineck.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Would you like to monitor your neck and spine as an aid to fitness, better posture and to avoid strain? This Editor, who has a history of both neck and back problems, surely would–and it’s an area not covered by current fitness monitors. Fineck, developed by the China/Taiwan company VEARI with central Taiwan’s Sport and Health Research Center at National Chung Hsing University of Taiwan, claims to have developed a waterproof, reasonably presentable (left) necklace sensor along with analytics. It will send alerts via smartphone when it determines bad body posture or too much inactivity. ‘Neck-Health’ pictures demonstrate what you should do. While not clinical grade like devices such as those from Australia’s dorsaVi, it opens a whole new pursuit for QSersFineck website. VentureBeat

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

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…)

Biocompatible batteries for ‘sensors of the future’

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Dissolving-Battery.jpg” thumb_width=”300″ /] Pointer to the Future. Implantable medical sensors and devices have a main drawback–their power source. Current batteries are bulky and must be manually removed. External power transference means fairly bulky outside and inside devices.

What if the sensor and batteries could simply dissolve harmlessly in the body when no longer needed?

Research from John Rogers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his team first led to biodegradable (in the body) electronics in 2012, and now dissolving batteries (above). (more…)

Augmenting human performance in the USAF

A pointer to the future is how the US Air Force is taking a new look at what we call telehealth and they call Human Performance Monitoring. Current sensors are large and complex in measuring heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygenation and skin temperature–critical data for pilots and other airmen. For instance, the USAF measures O2 in F-22 pilots to determine effects and compensate to keep both man and machine safe. Not only do they want to make sensors smaller–like skin patches–but also these are key to a new concept in aviation medicine called Human Performance Augmentation, which will measure human health status in real time. And both play into Human Systems Integration, which integrates man and machine. The implications here for civilian use are many: miniaturization of sensors into wearables, real time telehealth and machine assistance for human tasks. Performance-detecting Biosensors (Armed With Science)

Apple-ologizing Healthbook

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/healthbook-book.jpg” thumb_width=”300″ /]With the same obsession that Kremlinologists had during the Cold War, the Apple-ologists at 9to5Mac observe emanations and permutations emitting from Cupertino. Based on their inside sources, they have the lowdown on how Apple will Go Big into healthcare monitoring and fitness tracking.

  • ‘Cards’ in the Healthbook allowing entry for vital signs such as blood pressure, blood glucose, breathing rate, weight, hydration and oxygen saturation (O2). (photo at left above a ‘recreation of screenshots’ by 9to5Mac)
  • Sleep tracking. Apple in February hired Roy J.E.M. Raymannone of the world’s experts in sleep tracking including wearables and sensors, out of Philips.
  • Emergency Card with customer’s name, birthdate, medication information, weight, eye color, blood type, organ donor status, and location.

The rumors tie it to the introduction of iOS 8, the iWatch or both. But beyond the sensors on the phone and/or the iWatch–there’s no information on how telehealth apps, devices or sensors would wirelessly transmit the information. “While Healthbook is capable of tracking, sorting, and managing various types of health and fitness-related data, it is currently uncertain where this data will actually be sourced from.” But Editor Toni noted in February (link below) that Apple just patented headphones which are capable of monitoring temperature, heart rate and perspiration levels. This is Healthbook, Apple’s major first step into health & fitness tracking (9to5Mac). And Wired thinks Apple’s Upcoming Health App Is the Start of Something Huge (Wonder if South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety will impound it as an unapproved medical device!)

Previously in TTA: Apple-ologists discern ‘new’ interest in health tech and telehealth [20 July 13], Apple’s tarnished luster, Round 2 [29 July 13], Apple purchasing 3D gesture control developer PrimeSense [19 Nov 13]Apple patents health monitoring headphones with ‘head gesture’ control [19 Feb]