Portable health check for the home

A system that aims to make obtaining vital health data as easy as using a speak-your-weight machine is being developed by a group of European engineers and medical experts.

The system, called Bodylife, combines specially adapted electromagnetic sensor technology with medical IT software in a system small enough to be used in the home.

Bodylife aims to allow users to easily obtain accurate measurements of their body’s water content and fat levels. Currently these key indicators of general health and risk of disease are time consuming and require expensive monitoring equipment.

A basic battery-powered Bodylife system will be designed for use at home. Equipped with a serial port, it will be connectable to a standard PC, allowing users to view or print out data once it has been analysed.

More advanced versions, including sophisticated medical imaging technology, are intended for use in local health clinics. Schools, pharmacies and sports centres have also been identified as potential users of the system.

Bodylife will be able to distribute the data it collects online, allowing patients to undergo remote consultations with their doctors or connect to NHS resources such as NHS Direct.

According to the Bodylife consortium, the project is one of the most ambitious attempts to make relatively sophisticated measurements of health available to a large number of people.

As well as helping monitor those with a known medical condition, it will warn users of potential problems and help them change their lifestyles.

Eric Crescenzo, managing director of French electromagnetics specialist Ixtrem – technical co-ordinator of the project – said Bodylife has developed sensors that are smaller and easier to use than anything available.

Crescenzo said existing electromagnetic systems for measuring the body’s water content are too large and expensive for use outside hospitals where patients have to lie down inside a coil. He said: ‘We aimed to replace this complex machine with something simpler and cheaper that can be used while not prone.’

Crescenzo said the prototype coils produced for Bodylife can be fitted around individual parts of the body such as arms and legs.

Tests of Bodylife on people have delivered ‘excellent accuracy’ in determining water and fat levels, said Crescenzo.

The consortium is led by Atkosoft, a Greek specialist in medical IT applications. Other partners include the University of Lancaster, which is helping to develop microelectronics and sensing systems.

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