Wearable Sensors Can Tell When You’re Getting Sick

Posted: Jan 15 2017, 8:14am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

Wearable Sensors can Tell When you’re Getting Sick
Researcher Michael Snyder was wearing seven biosensors collecting data about his health. Credit: Steve Fisch

New study checks the accuracy of popular wearable devices

The last decade has seen a rapid increase in wearable sensing and monitoring devices. By revealing a lot about what is happening inside a person, these wearable devices can assist people in maintaining their health. But right now, there is not enough evidence to evaluate whether these devices actually work.

Recently, researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine conducted a large-scale study to assess the reliability of these high tech devices. Researchers found that wearable sensors that monitor heart rate, skin temperature and other variables can actually help track our health and can let us know when we are getting sick.

Researchers arrived at the conclusion after collecting 2 billion measurements from 60 people. The measurements included weight; heart rate; oxygen in the blood; skin temperature and day to day activities. The idea was to determine baseline medical information about the people participating in the study.

Researchers found that this information can actually help detect abnormal changes in a person’s body which can lead to the onset of infections, inflammations and other diseases.

“I was very impressed with all the data that was collected. There's a lot here—a lot of sensors and a lot of different data on each person," said Eric Topol, professor of genomics at the Scripps Research Institute, who was not involved in the study.

“The fact that you can pick up infections by monitoring before they happen is very proactive.”

For the study, participants used those health-tech devices that are commonly available in the market.

Lead study researcher Michael Snyder was also among those participants who helped check the accuracy and reliability of wearable devices. As the part of the study, he was wearing seven biosensors during a flight to Norway for vacation when he noticed that his heart rate and blood-oxygen levels were abnormal. The readings did not return to normal even when the flight landed and he ended up having a fever.

In another instance, Snyder suspected that he had been bitten by a tick during a visit to rural Massachusetts. Tests also confirmed that he was indeed been infected with Lyme disease. His wearable biosensors picked up the infection even before he knew he was sick.

Snyder explains the technology this way.

“Your car has 400 sensors and dashboard lights go on when a problem occurs like the engine starts overheating or you are nearly running out of gas.”

He added. “In the future, you will have multiple sensors relaying information to your smartphone, which will become your health dashboard. Alerts will go off with elevated heart rate over your normal level and heart beat abnormalities will be detected – these will enable early detection of disease, perhaps even before you can detect it yourself.”

The findings of the study were published in journal PLOS Biology.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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