A combination of new technologies offer the potential for unprecedented change in healthcare. We have low cost sensors that can be incorporated into miniature devices to measure all sorts of vital body functions. We have low-power wireless technology that let these devices exchange data with each other and the world. We have cloud computing that stores data that can also apply enormous processing resources to analyze this information. And we have powerful algorithms that can convert the spoken word to text, and analyze huge data sets to find actionable insights. The challenge is to get all of these to work together.
IBM has a program called the IBM Frontiers Institute, which brings together scientists to collaborate on new solutions for business and society. The group recently demonstrated a concept device from their Internet of the Body program. They call it the “cognitive hypervisor” and the concept is to have one device that unites all of the sensors on a subject’s body and in their home to provide a single health companion. The developers envision a system that collects data invisibly in the background, using IBM Watson cloud-based systems to monitor the information. By tracking physical and emotional data, algorithms can watch for results that exceed preset limits, and provide appropriate feedback to the subject or caregivers. In extreme cases, it could even be used to automatically summon emergency assistance.
The system could remind subjects when it’s time to take medications. Monitored speech could even be analyzed for signs of cognitive impairment or disease. A system that integrates the data from a variety of different wearable and smart home devices could be an important way to improve the support and care of seniors and chronically ill patients who are living independently. The result could be significant cost savings, improved outcomes, and saved lives.