What disease affects nearly 50 million people worldwide, with nearly 10 million new cases diagnosed each year? This disease costs more than $1 trillion each year when you factor in all the direct and indirect costs. The answer is dementia, and these numbers are expected to grow rapidly to 75 million by 2030. Anything that we can do to diagnose this illness sooner, improve treatment, and make patient care more efficient and effective has the potential to save billions of dollars a year in healthcare costs.

A consortium of companies including Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM have banded together to create the PYRAMID project that is aimed at improving dementia care. One of the key components of this program is the creation of a smart wristband specifically for dementia patients. Its sensors detect movement along with biometric data such as heart rate, body temperature, and galvanic skin response. The rechargeable device relies on Bluetooth and near-field communications (NFC) to interact wirelessly with other devices and systems. For example, the NFC feature could be used to automatically open a door for a patient.

The system is intended to gather essential data about a patient’s health and activities. Tracking motion over time could provide insights into the disease’s progression. More immediate alerts could be generated when a fall is detected and the patient is not moving. The data is encrypted and shared with caregivers and healthcare professionals over a secure system. A demonstrator version of the wristband has already been tested and receive positive reactions from patients. Further testing is scheduled for later this year.