Sidebar: Monitors Go Mini and Mobile

By Emily Gertz

(from Pigeons Write A Smog Blog. You May Be Next

Small and mobile monitors aren’t only for the birds. A cornucopia of gadgets are utilizing advances in biology, microtechnology and wireless communications to monitor human health in real time and send the information where it can do the most good.

The TechXtreme: wristwatch/sunglasses combo can help any outdoorsy sort to forestall heat stroke. The shades take advantage of the “brain temperature tunnel,” a part of the brain discovered by Yale researcher Marc Abreu that conveys the body’s core temperature to an area of skin on the nose. A small sensor in the shades records this information and  transmits it wirelessly to the watch; if the wearer's body temperature climbs too high, the watch sounds an alarm.

The Hitachi AirSense: combines small stationary sensor nodes and wristwatch-like mobile sensors into a wireless network that measures ambient temperature, humidity, and vibrations in real time across the equipped area (say, an office building or warehouse)—data worth tracking if you live someplace prone to earthquakes. Currently being sold in Japan, the system’s wrist devices can also monitor heart and pulse rates; Hitachi suggests they could be used to track the health of senior citizens living in remote areas.

The T+ Diabetes: system, currently available in the United Kingdom, gives diabetics quick feedback on their blood glucose levels. A digital blood-testing monitor wirelessly transmits readings to a mobile phone, where the patient then keys in answers to a few questions. The data are sent to a central server, which returns a graph charting the individual’s blood glucose levels over time. If this level falls outside an established personal target zone, patient and physician are notified. The system was developed at the University of Oxford with electronics firm e-San Limited.

The Smart Shirt: developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is made of a wearable fabric interwoven with optical and electrical fibers. Sensors in the shirt collect and process data on the wearer’s vital signs like heart rate, respiration, and temperature in real time, and relay them wirelessly to a doctor, athletic coach, or even a field medic (the technology was commissioned by the U.S. military to speed diagnosis and treatment of soldiers wounded in combat). The SmartShirt could be a vital part of any firefighter's uniform, or even help monitor babies against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

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