Combining data from wearable or installed sensors with a global positioning system that feeds back information on a patient’s environment enables healthcare professionals to monitor his/her movements more exactly.

Using GPS to Help Monitor Chronic Disease

A range of ‘smart’ clothing, like the T-Shirt developed under the Chronious project which is fitted with sensors that record patients’ physiological measurements, is now available to assist in the monitoring of chronic diseases. However, this does not provide the whole story, point out researchers at the University of Washington in the United States. They maintain that in order to understand a person better, you also need to have specific information on the environment in which s/he is moving around. The University has therefore developed a system which uses both wearable sensors and a GPS.

Combining data from sensors and GPS

This combination enables healthcare professionals not only to track a patient’s state of health but also to place the patient in his/her environment, recognising the activities s/he is engaged in - walking, running, going up or down the stairs, driving a vehicle - and identifying the spatial environment – i.e. whether s/he is out in the open air or inside the house. This data can then be stored in a palmtop computer and transferred via a USB port. The system accommodates various sensors, such as an accelerometer, two microphones to record ambient sound and conversations, a phototransistor which detects the level of light and a sensor that measures temperature and atmospheric pressure.

The context is important

The GPS estimates how and how much thepatient wearing the system is moving around, basing its calculation on available satellite data. The two sets of data are then merged, enabling the system to assign overall performance indicators to the patient in relation to his/her environment. This approach may have applications in various other fields based on electronic data, such as supporting people suffering from cognitive deficiency or long-term illness and monitoring people during rehabilitation, and could even find uses in a military context.