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Research identifies major challenges in future of pervasive healthcare

A research project carried out by a University of Southampton Masters student has identified three research challenges that will need to be addressed before pervasive healthcare becomes a reality.

Sabrina Nefti, a final year student of the MEng Master of Engineering Degree within the School of Electronics & Computer Science (ECS) who will graduate next month, carried out a review of the current medical sensor technology designed to make independent living for the elderly a reality.

She has recommended that further research is needed into hybrid platforms, sensor design, and combining environmental health and activity monitoring systems.

'The UK population aged over 65 is estimated to rise from 9.3 million to 16.8 million over the next 50 years,' she said. 'A wealth of research has begun in pervasive healthcare which, as it develops, will allow patients to lead an independent lifestyle in their own homes.'

According to Sabrina, the use of sensors alone to monitor a person's activities, for example hand washing, can leave a subtle gap in information as the sensor for example, reports that the tap is opened but not that the person has washed his/her hands. She recommends the fusion of a RFID tag, an infra-red system and an acoustic system to provide more effective monitoring.

'I acknowledge that while hybrid platforms may be the way forward to bridge the gap, they are harder to integrate,' she said. 'Fusion techniques that require minimal cost and complexity need to be investigated.'

Sabrina also recommends the development of new sensors with high-level signal processing and transmission capabilities, and highlights the fact that her review revealed no research aimed at combining environmental health and activity monitoring systems.

'Such a house system which would be capable of sensing changes in an individual's activities would be a breakthrough in the field of remote predictive healthcare,' she said.

Sabrina was supervised by Professor Bashir Al-Hashimi, who recently set up the University of Southampton’s Pervasive Systems Centre, which brings together multidisciplinary expertise from across the school's research groups, ranging from sensors and wireless communications to computer science theory and practice, all working those making independent living for the elderly a reality.

Helene Murphy | alfa
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