Wearable Sensors: Opportunities and Challenges for Low-Cost Health Care - Embedded.com

Wearable Sensors: Opportunities and Challenges for Low-Cost Health Care


The definition of health care, and the way it is delivered, is currently undergoing great change, particularly in the Unites States. Throughout the world, there is increasing need for ambulatory monitoring of physiology to enable medical interventions and therapies outside of the clinical setting.

From a cost perspective, the primary goal has been to move health care away from where it is most expensive (clinic, emergency room ) and move toward preventative measures and outpatient monitoring. The motivation is to create technologies that will enable us to continuously monitor our health and track our progress in all stages of life and disease.

As health monitoring becomes part of the fabric of everyday life, there is a need for technologies that are comfortable, simple to use, unobtrusive, and also provide privacy and security. Wearable sensors, mobile phones, web cameras, and online social networks are all part of the future health support system.

In this paper, we present several technologies developed by our group and discuss some progress and challenges towards achieving the vision of ubiquitous low-cost health care infrastructure.

We haves explored sensors that are fundamental to psychophysiology and understanding of human emotion. Two general categories of sensors being developed by our group are Electrodermal Activity (EDA), also known as skin conductance or galvanic skin response, and Mobile Photoplethysmography (PPG) as it relates to mobile measurement of heart rate and heart rate variability.

The first is monitored using wrist bands with embedded EDA sensors that incorporate electrically conductive fabric. The second detects the blood volume pulse by measuring the relative absorption of near infrared light over perfused skin.

In addition to a wrist band form factor, we have explored other body locations and other form factors for PPG heart rate measurement such as by a sensor that can be worn on ear or incorporated into the earpiece of other common consumer devices such as a Bluetooth mobile phone earpiece or earphones.

To read this external content in full, download the complete paper from the MIT open access articles archive .

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