‘Next-generation’ technology to detect ‘key health challenges’ for seniors

Apr 04, 2023
The technology is expected to have a number of applications, including in aged care. Source: Getty Images.

A wearable sticker that can monitor the health of those wearing it is being touted as “critical” in “helping to address key health challenges”, particularly among older adults.

The milestone has been achieved by WearOptimo, a health tech firm located in Brisbane, as it initiates clinical trials for its hydration sensor which is created to detect indications of dehydration.

During the trials, volunteers are equipped with the sensors and undergo physical exertion tests in elevated temperatures, following a dehydration-rehydration protocol. The obtained results are being compared against conventional measurements, including blood samples, taken at specific intervals. The research is being carried out with a group of healthy volunteers.

WearOptimo founder and CEO Professor Mark Kendall said the trials “are critical on our path to rapidly advance our Microwearable sensor products, helping to address key health challenges.”

According to Kendall, dehydration is frequently overlooked as a significant issue.

“To make matters worse, the signals in our body that tell us to hydrate start to deteriorate as we get older,” he said.

“It’s estimated about one in four hospitalisations of older people may be related to dehydration.”

Currently, there are limited viable options for monitoring hydration, aside from the unreliable approach of instructing individuals to observe the color of their urine.

In addition to the wearable sticker that could help prevent the dangers of dehydration among older adults, researchers at the University of Waterloo have developed a system that utilises Artificial Intelligence (AI) to non-invasively monitor older adults in their homes, enabling the early detection of potential health issues.

This system tracks an individual’s daily activities in real-time, collects critical information without the use of wearable devices, and promptly notifies medical professionals when intervention is required.

It operates by transmitting low-power waveforms through a space, such as a room in a long-term care facility or a private residence, using a wireless transmitter. The receiver captures and processes the reflected waves, which are then analysed by an AI engine for monitoring and detection purposes.

This system utilises low-power radar technology and can be easily installed on a wall or ceiling.

“After more than five years of working on this technology, we’ve demonstrated that very low-power, millimetre-wave radio systems enabled by machine learning and artificial intelligence can be reliably used in homes, hospitals and long-term care facilities,” Dr. George Shaker, an adjunct associate professor of electrical and computer engineering said.

“An added bonus is that the system can alert healthcare workers to sudden falls, without the need for privacy-intrusive devices such as cameras.”

Shaker and his colleagues’ research is particularly important as healthcare systems struggle to cope with the increasing demands of a growing elderly population.

The new system has already been rolled out in a number of long-term care homes.

“Using our wireless technology in homes and long-term care homes can effectively monitor various activities such as sleeping, watching TV, eating and the frequency of bathroom use,” Shaker said.

“Currently, the system can alert care workers to a general decline in mobility, increased likelihood of falls, possibility of a urinary tract infection, and the onset of several other medical conditions.”

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