A sensor worn as a patch, which interacts with epileptics and their doctors, carers, family and friends, is designed to help sufferers manage their own condition.
Epilepsy, which is responsible for around 50,000 deaths every year in the United States, is one of the most unpredictable and little-understood medical conditions. Now Seattle-based high tech design consultancy Artefact has come up with a concept called Dialog, which “enables epilepsy sufferers to understand their condition better and to take better decisions on their health,” says the company. The concept is embodied in a patch equipped with sensors, which can be stuck directly on to the skin or attached to a watch-like bracelet. The patch collects physiological and activity data on the patient and his/her environment in order to work out and predict the conditions that are likely to trigger a seizure.
A discreet smart sensor
As with other medical patches, Dialog sends biometric information such as tracking by electro-encephalogram directly to the patient’s smartphone via a dedicated app, so that an epileptic sufferer does not have to keep a written account of activities that bring on a seizure and the symptoms associated with it. The app helps to monitor the patient’s vital signs and will keep a comprehensive log of conditions leading up to, during, and after a seizure, with a view to preventing recurrences. Use of the patch is highly intuitive andthe patient can interact with it through simple gestures. For example, pressing down with the palm of the hand will summon the emergency services directly; while a light touch on the patch will indicate how the patient is feeling. S/he can be alerted to the likelihood of an oncoming seizure as changes in his/her mood thresholds are detected and family and friends can be informed through the app’s sharing functionality of the patient’s whereabouts if s/he does suffer a seizure.
Still on the drawing board
The Quantified Self trend, firmly linked to the widespread use of connected objects, is showing strong growth. In the second half of 2013, the level of investment in both connected objects development and the health sector was very striking. Artefact’s idea for improving the lives of epilepsy sufferers may well therefore have a bright future. However, it will take some time before the devices appear on shelves. “At this point, the device is still a concept, but we designed it with technologies and components in mind that are currently in development or being tested in labs and research centres,” explained Emilia Palaveeva, a member of the Dialog team.