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Motion Capture Sensors Help Detect Health Changes

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 16 Jun 2016
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Image: Bed sensors, constructed of hydraulic transducers, are designed to monitor patient health (Photo courtesy of the University of Missouri).
Image: Bed sensors, constructed of hydraulic transducers, are designed to monitor patient health (Photo courtesy of the University of Missouri).
Monitoring walking speed via unobtrusive radar and monitoring heart health by utilizing bed sensors can help maintain older adults’ health, according to new studies.

Researchers at the University of Missouri (MU, Columbia, USA) developed radar sensors that were used to monitor the walking speed of residents in ten Tiger Place (Columbia, MO, USA) retirement apartments over a period of two years. The radars were concealed in a wooden box and placed in the living room of each senior resident; monthly assessments by professionals were also conducted to establish if the residents were at risk for potential falls. The data collected by the healthcare staff were then compared to the data captured by the radar.

The researchers also developed a bed sensor with the ability to continuously monitor heart rate, respiration rate, and overall cardiac activity. The sensor is constructed of a hydraulic transducer, in principal a flexible tube of water. It measures a ballistocardiogram (BCG; the mechanical effect of blood flowing through the body as a result of the heart beating). In the study, four such hydraulic transducers were placed under a mattress to capture cardiac data, with heartbeat detection based on the short-time energy of the BCG signal. The studies are slated for publication in the Journal of Ambient Intelligence and Smart Environments.

“In-home sensors have the ability to capture early signs of health changes before older adults recognize problems themselves,” said Professor Marjorie Skubic, PhD, of the MU College of Engineering and director of the MU Center for Eldercare and Rehabilitation Technology. “The radar enhances our ability to monitor walking speed and determine if a senior has a fall risk; the bed sensors provide data on heart rate, respiration rate, and overall cardiac activity when a senior is sleeping. Both sensors are non-invasive and don’t require seniors to wear monitoring devices.”

“Heart disease is a major cause of death for both men and women; having a sensor continuously monitoring heart rate provides a significant benefit for older adults,” added Professor Skubic. “The bed sensors also allow us to collect data on sleeping patterns– when people are in bed, how often they are in bed, and how long they are in bed. Similar to walking speed, sleep patterns can detect early signs of illness.”

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University of Missouri



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