Calhoun and the ASSIST research team seek to reduce or eliminate entirely the need for battery replacement or frequent charging. This advance would mean an increased wear time capacity, providing patients and physicians with a more complete picture of an individual’s biometrics data.
Dr. Michael Daniele’s research is in the field of biochemical sensing. Like Calhoun, he is interested in advancing wearable capabilities; however, he hopes to tap into additional data points:
“At ASSIST, we’re building wearable and mobile biochemical sensing. When we think of wearables, we typically think of our Fitbits or Apple Watches, or even holter monitors for ECG or heart rate. We’re trying to take the next step and take your doctor’s office, a clinical lab that’s doing blood work, and put that on the body in some way. When you go to the doctor and get a blood panel drawn, you look at many different targets. We’re trying to do the same thing with wearables. Instead of just looking at one metric, we’re looking at many different metrics.”
Daniele sees potential in utilizing non- or minimally-invasive sources of information, such as sweat or interstitial fluid. By collecting and analyzing the biochemical markers found in these fluids, researchers will be granted access to additional metrics for assessing health status. For example, Daniele is currently conducting research on the relationship between lactate levels and respiratory stress as it relates to COVID-19.
Dr. Jess Jur leads a research team in the Wilson College of Textiles at North Carolina State University, where he is working towards improving material integration, wearability, manufacturability, and communication capabilities of smart textiles. For Jur, clothes are a platform for energy-harvesting technologies, and textiles provide a unique opportunity for collecting biometrics data. Jur tells viewers: “One of the cool things about smart textiles is the fact that you can distribute sensing technologies across the garment and link them all up in a single location.” In short, integrating sensors within the material of clothing items can increase the reach of data collection far beyond that of a typical wearable device. Still, one limiting factor for the smart textiles industry is the high margin; the technologies added to garments can be quite expensive.
The final panelist on Friday’s webinar was Dr. Mehmet Ozturk, Professor of electrical engineering at North Carolina State University and Deputy Director of ASSIST. Ozturk’s research is in the field of new materials, processes, and structures for nano-electronics. Much of his work consists of developing flexible thermoelectric generators (TEGs) for body heat energy harvesting. TEGs work by utilizing the voltage created by a temperature differential; however, Ozturk points out that the human body is not flat, thus necessitating more flexible, less rigid TEG devices. At ASSIST, Ozturk and his team are using liquid metal embedded in stretchable silicone to create devices that conform to the human body.
After discussing the numerous innovative technologies in the works at the ASSIST Center, Levy asked panelists what the future of wearable devices might look like. According to Daniele, wearables may increasingly play a supportive role in patient care over the next 10 years. Nonetheless, Curry pointed out that “what is missing right now is the personalization of wearable devices.” Moving forward, customization and personalization of wearables and other digital technologies present both challenges as well as valuable opportunities for improving the quality of individualized care.
As Adam Curry stated, “ASSIST and DHIT are really driving after the same goal: to improve peoples’ health and well-being through digital health and technology.” Both the series as well as the upcoming Virtual Incubator will be focused on addressing real-world needs in the healthcare space, with the goal of moving valuable technology towards consumers and providers.
DHIT thanks its guests for serving on the panel, and everyone who tuned in! If you were not able to catch last week’s webinar, check out DHIT’s Media page to see what you missed. DHIT would also like to give a special shout out to our sponsors: Bluedoor Group, Tanjo, and Smashing Boxes, for making this webinar possible.
We are excited to announce DHIT’s partnership with the ASSIST Center to launch an ongoing focus on remote care. DHIT and the ASSIST Center will partner to launch a Virtual Incubator using Crowdicity to collect crowdsourced ideas from the digital health community. For more information, see our landing page for the Incubator and mark your calendar for Friday, May 29th for the next installment of the DHIT Frequency Webinar Series. Until then, stay safe, everyone!
- To learn more about the ASSIST Center, visit org
- To learn more about the Virtual Incubator, visit org/incubator
The Digital Health Institute for Transformation (DHIT) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit education and research institute supporting communities through the process of digital health transformation. We collaborate with leading academic institutions, associations, and industry to cultivate talent and ecosystems with our immersive learning platform, harnessing real-world experiences that drive the adoption of next generation skills, emerging technologies, and mindsets needed to foster the digital health leaders and innovators of the future, today. For more information, visit dhitglobal.org.
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