16-09-2021 | | By Sam Brown
Recently, SensFit announced the development of a shoe with inbuilt sensors designed to detect early signs of dementia and detect potential trip hazards. Why is pre-emptive medical detection so important, what did SensFit develop, and will smart sensors see an increase in usage in the medical field?
With everything that goes on in modern-day life, it can be easy to forget things, whether it be the car keys, the house keys, and in some instances, the baby left on the roof of the car. This also applies to personal health, whereby individuals fail to keep an eye on their own bodies. Such often overlooked signs include frequent urination, growing moles, inflamed body parts, and pains that come and go.
Unfortunately, the human body is often unforgiving regarding ignored symptoms, and leaving medical check-ups to the last minute runs the risk of irreversible damage and/or death. This is often the case with cancer, where an individual ignores a symptom during the early stages thinking that having a cough for a long time is perfectly normal or that frequent urination is not worth getting checked out.
But such issues can also arise from a lack of frequent check-ups, sometimes referred to as a body MOT. Some companies like such medicals as they enable employees to catch conditions early while giving the employer an idea of their overall health. Still, unless you go privately, social health care services such as the NHS often look down on such services as being wasteful.
Despite all of this, detecting medical conditions before they become problematic is by far the best way to prevent more serious conditions down the road. One example of where early detection can be important is Alzheimer’s; if caught before symptoms show, medication can be prescribed, and experimental treatments that may help manage the symptoms as they progress.
Recently, SensFit Technologies announced the development of a new technology that it says will help with the early detection of dementia, diabetes, and problems relating to physical activities.
The Smart Shoe utilises 87 graphene ink sensors that are printed to the sole of the shoe. The sensors are connected to circuitry that record stress and strain from the sensors. The recorded data is then interpreted by an AI. The AI can then infer what the user is doing from the sensor readings, and therefore can log data involving how much the user walks, how they walk, and deviations in their behavioural patterns.
According to SensFit, the AI can perform two main tasks; neurological assessment and physical assessment. Long-term data gathering can be used to see how the user changes over time which is ideal in determining to shake, variations in pressure on the feet, and how weight is distributed over the feet over time. Instantaneous readings can be used to determine if the user is losing their footing, therefore, risking a fall which in itself can be deadly.
Currently, the team at SensFit is looking for funding of $125,000 to continue their advancements and launch clinical trials.
The combination of cheaper electronics, flexible sensors, and AI will see sensors become increasingly important in modern life. Currently, medical sensors measure immediate data such as heart rate and oxygen levels, but this will change when the advantages of predictive diagnostic become apparent to the broader public.
To be specific, the quality of healthcare greatly around the world while the availability of doctors is often highly dependent on one’s income. Even in countries where health services are socialised, it is not unheard of to expect long wait times for specialists, diagnosis, and treatment. One example is the NHS refusal to deal with cancer patients, seeing over 500,000 patients having delayed services. The excuse was that the COVID pandemic was preventing hospitals and GPs from operating correctly.
An AI doctor who can perform diagnostics at home using data it gathers on home users would be a fundamental change in healthcare. The cost of such as system would be poultry compared to the fees that doctors charge, and an AI would do so without judgement or automatic disregard for unlikely diagnosis.
Overall, the importance of medical sensors cannot go understated, and the falling costs of electronics will enable anyone to actively monitor their vitals. This data will be gathered in mass and used to perform predictive diagnostics, which could see a fall in fatalities due to missed diagnosis.