In healthcare, new technologies, like wireless sensor networks, enable completely new ways of treatment, surveillance and diagnostics. This will allow saving costs and resources. This implication is important seen the number of elderly people and the finance issues of the medical services several countries. The last decades brought significant changes of the structure of the population especially in the advanced industry countries. The average life expectancy at 60 has risen by five years since 1960 for women and nearly four years for men. The EU will have 34.7 million citizens aged over 80 (compared to 18.8 million today). The number of people 80+ will grow by 180 % by 2050.
I introduced the WASP project already in my About the WASP project. The project focuses on monitoring of elderly using wearable body sensor networks (BSN) and ambient sensors, installed in the buildings where the people live.
A BSN is supposed to combine any kind of wearable and implantable sensors. Wearable sensors can be integrated into fabrics and be worn as a smart t-shirts. These washable t-shirts can have pulse, breath, temperature and movement sensors woven in. Another option is a ring sensor that is worn by the patient all times. The ring is packed with Led’s and photo detectors where the technology of pulse oximetry is implemented for blood oxygen saturation monitoring. Regarding implantable sensors which not only have sensing capabilities but as well actuators are the subjects of biochemical research.
Examples are implanted glucose sensor could help to control blood sugar levels without pin-prick tests and release insulin accordingly.
Ambient sensors are available allover in the environment and often referred as Ambient Sensor Network (ASN). The ASN is installed in or around the building/house, appliances and furniture to collect information about the patient’s environment and activities. Examples of ambient sensors are infra-red sensors, similar to sensors used in alarm systems. They can detect the presence of persons in a room or in a certain area. Electro-magnetic sensors installed on doors, cupboards and drawers allow detecting their opening and closing. Sensitive rugs hidden under the carpet or pressure mats on chairs, sofas and beds can locate the patient more precisely. Also cameras are possible, but despite their capability to detect the gait and posture of persons, they have in general a low acceptance rate by patients.
Both body sensor network and ambient sensor network are used to monitor the health and the daily activities of the residents. Monitoring Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) is an important surrogate measure for assessing the functional status of a person. It is widely used in medicine for assessing the elderly and those with chronic diseases or mental illness. Many ADL indices are used by health professionals. They include: mobility, communication, breathing, eating and drinking, personal cleansing and grooming, personal device care, controlling body temperature, balanced working and social life, and quality of sleeping. Deviations from regular patterns of activity can indicate whether or not the person being monitored is experiencing deterioration in health and/or wellbeing.
The focus of SAP Research in this context is to ensure the privacy of the monitored person. That means, we want to ensure the private medical information is never exposed to unauthorized persons, like neighbors or even employers. Currently, we are investigating an approach to encrypt sensor data directly on the sensor node based on given privacy levels. This ensures that the data is always encrypted during the communication from the sensor node via other nodes and gateways to the using application located in the backend. Only users that are cleared for a certain privacy level can use a specialized service to decrypt the sensor data. This new concept is especially applicable for resource limited devices like the sensor nodes used in BSNs and ASNs.