No more smartwatches or connected tablets? Reading human vital signs through walls via a reverse Wi-Fi box and machine learning

A monitoring future without smartwatches, pendants, or transmitting readings through your tablet? A professor at MIT has developed a box, about the size of a Wi-Fi router, that can monitor a person’s vital signs throughout the house. Like Wi-Fi, the device emits a low-power wireless radio signal, but the device then measures the return on those radio signals from the bodies in the residence. The ‘neural network’ takes the data from the tiny changes in electromagnetic signals to track physiological signs as the person moves from room to room, even through walls, using machine learning to analyze those reflected signals and extract physiological data such as breathing, heart rate, posture, and gait. The device has also been tested on sleep patterns including sleep stages, which means it could replace the awkward and artificial electrodes in a lab which are usual for sleep testing.

Dina Katabi, a MIT professor of electrical engineering and computer science, built this box in her lab. So far it has been tested in over 200 homes around the US, tracking the baselines of healthy people and those with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression, and pulmonary diseases. In the case of Parkinson’s, the data gathered by the device over eight weeks in the home of a patient indicated that his gait improved around 5 or 6 am, right around the time he took his medication. Data is encrypted and Professor Katabi has stated that the setup process requires a user to complete a series of specific movements before it’s possible to be tracked. She has also cofounded a startup, Emerald Innovations, to commercialize the technology. If it is workable beyond the test stage, it has the capability to revolutionize remote patient monitoring. Engadget, MIT Technology Review

LG’s Kizon child tracker debuts

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Kizon-LG.jpg” thumb_width=”175″ /] Just in time for school start in North America and Europe is LG‘s September intro of the Kizon bracelet for keeping track of your small child through an Android app. This child-friendly, colorful (but a little bulky) wristband seems to pack a lot into a one-button package: GPS/Wi-Fi tracking, 2G/3G cellular ability for the child to call out to a pre-loaded phone number and to accept calls from pre-approved numbers. And it appears to be a water and stain-resistant watch as well. LG is marketing to parents of pre-school and primary/elementary school children but pricing is not available. It’s a big change stylistically from the GPS trackers like Lok8u which have typically been marketed for primarily autistic children and others at risk. Launch will be in South Korea this week according to BBC News. Is there an opportunity to use this with older people as well?

Editor Chrys on background:

The idea of using mobile phones for tracking kids goes way back to around 2003. The earliest service I know of was one called Child Locate and was launched in the UK by Jon Magnusson. It was intended for parents to track kids (or rather their phones) on a map on the internet. Child Locate has now morphed into Mobile Locate and tracks any mobile device and  claims 100,000+ users.

The other service that comes to mind straight away is Disney Mobile – Disney’s MVNO over Sprint. In 2006 Disney launched what seems a great idea at the time – a service for parents to track kids – the Family Center. Similar to Child Locate this service allowed parents to locate the mobile on a map, plus limit call and text spending. It was launched with two handsets, one from, wait for it – LG and the other from now almost bankrupt third largest Korean handset company Pantech. So LG was dabbling in this in 2005/6. Disney Mobile had plans to expand to UK over the O2 network though that never materialised. Disney Mobile closed down a year later.

The Kizon may look cute at first glance but it is definitely not unobtrusive. When my neighbour’s 18-month-old is playing Peppa Pig incessantly on her iPad I think LG’s marketing department is behind times thinking they can get a Western kid to be tracked by her dad for everyone to see. Make no mistake Korea and Japan are the leading nations for high tech consumer products but the psychology of those countries don’t work here. Having worked for a leading Japanese company I have seen this from the inside. If this takes off in London I’ll eat my hat – even if I have to buy a hat to eat!

Verizon’s ‘white label’ telemedicine service debuts

Verizon is evidently sticking with its strategy of enterprise marketing when it comes to digital health. The Verizon Virtual Visits service released last week enables a video chat with a clinician via smartphone app (3G/4G OK as well as Wi-Fi; the full mobile enablement Verizon states as a key differentiator versus competitors such as American Well, MDLive and Teladoc) or alternatively, web portal. Prior to the average 30 minute chat, the service verifies eligibility and co-pay information, presents patients’ self-reported histories, symptoms, medication allergies and other information, then collects the co-pay; at the close if needed, an e-prescription via SureScripts is sent to the patient’s pharmacies. Verizon presents this as as a ‘white label’ service for groups such as health systems, insurers and health plans who will determine their unique co-pay and clinician mix. Clinicians can be contracted through Verizon’s provider network or, in a health system, their own or an in-house/contract mix. Neither clients nor third-party medical provider(s) have been announced yet, but VentureBeat states that the clients will be publicized in the next few months, which is deflating. Information Week, The IHCC. Verizon release.

A Wi-Fi upgrade with big impact to healthcare

This was probably not headline news in your home town, unless it’s Palo Alto, but the new Wi-Fi standard (802.11ac and 802.11ad for the techies), replacing 802.11n, will be out of the box at end of 2013. The new standard is much higher capacity (supposedly it is a 3:1 difference) and has great promise for wireless hospitals. It will enable bigger data–like imaging–to go to tablets, for instance, much faster. The ‘ad’ standard is also extremely short range –10 meters–which will serve best for data-heavy localized tasks like reading X-rays or MRIs on tablets. More capacity, faster speed is especially important as more MBANs (Medical Body Area Networks) enter hospitals. Latest Wi-Fi standards could boost mHealth connectivity (FierceMobileHealthcare) Techies can parse eWeek.