Health monitoring in vehicles | Digital health technology

health monitoring vehicles

What’s the product?

The world would be fascinating if we had vehicles that take care of our health while saving our time from visiting hospitals. Recently, Ford, the well-renowned automobile company has collaborated with Rheinisch-WestfälischeTechnischeHochschule (RWTH) Aachen University in Germany to work on so-called Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. Ford stated that they had developed incredible driver’s seat that will help the driver in monitoring the heart functions via six embedded sensors. These sensors will be placed on the backrest, hence detecting the electrical impulses that are generated by the heart. Contact with the skin is not required for this technology. Dr. Achim Lindner, who is the medical officer at the Ford research center believes that health monitoring vehicles can help in earlier detection of disease.

What is the technology behind health monitoring vehicles?

The seat sensor technology is being used in these advanced Ford automobiles, responsible for diagnosing the health of the driver. Ford further announced that they are leveraging Ford SYNC so that it will connect with other devices such as cloud-based Internet services, Bluetooth, asthma management tools, diabetes management service and Web-based allergen alert solutions.

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What are the applications?

A heart diagnosis in the driver’s seat

  • Image Courtesy of medit.hia.rwth-aachen.de

    Ford has developed ECG reader, which is also referred as electrocardiography reader, that can be integrated into the controller’s seat conveniently. The most interesting thing about this ECG reader is its contactless system that records signals with the help of driver’s clothes.

  • Clothes should be “normal” and not leather coat or winter jacket. Many hospitals use electrodes that are attached to the skin for recording the signals. This ECG reader differentiates as compared to traditional ECG diagnosing methods.
  • An electrical signal flows through the heart’s muscle cells with every heartbeat. To record these signals, Ford’s car has integrated six capacitive plates. This monitoring can be achieved by registering the electric charge between the plates and driver’s body that often changes with every heartbeat. Steffen Leonhardt who is a professor at RWTH Aachen University helped in making this technology.

Glucose-monitor data displayed at car’s dashboard

  • Apps and wearables can be connected to Ford Sync and the car’s central display screen show the numbers that your wearable generates.
  • Instead of using your smartphone, you can directly see your report on the car’s dashboard. This will help diabetic patients to monitor their glucose level as low glucose may cause many crises.
  • Individuals can simply see the car’s display screen to check their glucose levels while concentrating on the driving.

A full health diagnosis while driving

  • Ford is on the verge to equip their test cars with all sorts of sensors and cameras to monitor vital signs remotely. These sensors will be used for monitoring the body temperature. On the other hand, for controlling the heart rate and respiration, low-intensity radar can be employed.
  • These systems have electromagnetic waves that bounce back from different types of tissues when directed at the body. Depending on the expansion and contraction of person’s lungs and heartbeats, the radar changes accordingly.

What’s the market and target users (older drivers)?

As per U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans 65 and older is estimated to double by the year 2050. According to their report, this age group will reach 88.5 Million. On the other hand, there have been predictions in Europe that the over 65 age group people will reach 23% by 2025 and 30% by 2050. Considering this estimation, it seems that people over 100 will drive the cars.

Who are the key players?

Until now, only a few universities such as MIT, Stanford University and The University of Michigan were successful in entering this Automobile Health diagnosis innovative program in collaboration with Ford Motor Company.

Conclusion

This heart rate monitor technology will hugely impact many lives in improving their health. Data gathered from cameras and sensors will be examined by medical experts further real-time health alerts that will certainly prevent from any cardiovascular issues. Ford and RWTH Aachen University is trying hard to develop this heart monitoring technology with the establishment of the Ford RWTH Alliance.

Image credit: www.istockphoto.com

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