Almost pervasive

A final-year engineering student at the University of Southampton has identified significant stumbling blocks to the implementation of pervasive healthcare.

Sabrina Nefti, who is studying towards a masters degree in the School of Electronics and Computer Science, came across the challenges when she reviewed the current medical sensor technology designed to enable elderly people to live independently, as part of a research project.

According to Sabrina, the sole use of sensors to monitor a person’s activities, such as hand washing, does not provide a comprehensive level of supervision. For example, the sensors can detect the opening of a tap, but not that the person has washed his or her hands.

She recommended that further research into hybrid platforms, sensor design, and combining environmental health and activity monitoring systems, was necessary to make monitoring more effective.

One suggestion was to use a combination of a radio frequency ID (RFID) tag, an infra-red system and an acoustic system.

‘I acknowledge that while hybrid platforms may be the way to bridge the gap, they are harder to integrate,’ she said. ‘Fusion techniques that require minimal cost and complexity need to be investigated.’

Nefti also suggested the development of advanced sensors with the ability to process and transmit signals, and highlighted the lack of research available in combining environmental health and activity monitoring systems.

‘Such a house system, capable of sensing changes in an individual’s activities, would be a breakthrough in the field of remote predictive healthcare,’ she said.