Picture: Keith Wheeler
A research team led by Dr Tanveer Zia from Charles Sturt University’s School of Computing and Mathematics in Wagga Wagga is designing a health care monitoring system that will use tiny sensors on the patient to transmit data wirelessly to the patient’s smartphone or tablet. The data will then be transmitted over the mobile network to a secure cloud storage facility enabling health professionals and carers to access it regardless of their location.
“The aim is to provide a cost effective and efficient health care service to Australia’s aging population, especially in rural and regional areas,” said Dr Zia. ”What’s new about this project is the combination of technological advancements such as smartphones, wireless sensors and cloud computing.”
Dr Zia also hopes to develop a real-time alert system to warn of significant changes in a patient’s health. “For example, if an elderly person in a remote area had a fall, the mobile device would send an alert to the doctor, carer and emergency services,” he said.
He told ZDNet that the new system was potentially superior to current medical monitoring systems in that its adoption of tiny and unobtrusive sensors would encourage elderly patients to actually use the system and enable it to be used outside controlled and supervised environments, such as a nursing home or medical facility.
Dr Zia and his team have already tested collection of the data and its transfer to an Android phone. Their next step is to develop a web-based platform to store the information. “Given the confidential nature of the data collected we aim to embed security measures to ensure that information can only be accessed by an authorised person,” Dr Zia said.
He added: “Internationally there’s a lot of work to develop small, low-cost, networked sensors to replace the current bulky medical devices. What makes our research innovative is that we are using existing telecommunications infrastructure, in this case the 3G network, to make the data available over longer distances, and placing it on a secure cloud-based platform to enable medical practitioners to access data from anywhere.”
He told The Australian newspaper that he was not aware of any remote monitoring system currently available that alerts, firstly, emergency services and, secondly, provides real-time alerts to the doctors or medical caregivers.
He expects to have a prototype available early next year and a fully functioning system in three years. The technology also has other uses such as monitoring a soldier in the field and monitoring the habitat of wildlife and sea creatures. “This breakthrough study will contribute significantly in further advancing research in wireless sensor networks, cloud computing and security in wireless communication from health care perspectives,” Dr Zia said.
He presented his research at the IEEE Body Sensor Networks conference held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology earlier this year.
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