MIT Professor Invents Wireless Health Tracker with Best Features to Date

Most health trackers available today focus on one or who parameters (say, heart rate or sleep quality) and work only if worn. A new device created by an MIT professor definitely broke the mold with its wireless approach and multiple features. From gait analysis to breathing monitoring, it can gather quite a lot of information about your condition which can be used by your doctor.

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Dina Katabi is a prominent researcher specializing in computer science and electrical engineering, and a professor at MIT whose name has recently made headlines when her team introduced a new device which can monitor health condition even through walls. Most devices of the kind require its user to wear them, which may be inconvenient or difficult to do all the time. This time, the very idea behind it is different.

How does it work?

The device utilizes radio signals and advanced technology like machine learning to detect the tiniest movements we make and how the electromagnetic field changes in response to them. It looks like a white box, but this small container has the content inside it which amazed many a doctor and researchers in other fields.

Without any electrodes or other sensors on your body, the device can monitor your heart rate, breathing, gait, sleep cycles, and analyze other information it receives. By sending signals into the environment and detecting them as they come back, it processes a lot of data to estimate posture and movements of a person.

How can it be used?

One of the ways the device can be used is conducting studies looking into the issue of sleep cycles. Today, if a team wants to carry out a project involving analysis of someone’s sleep, they have to cover the volunteer’s body with sensors, and sleeping like this is not only uncomfortable – it can affect the resulting data. The new technology can make monitoring of vital signs of the body easier regardless of field of research. In the case of sleep studies, it can see if the person being monitored is experiencing REM or some other sleep stage.

However, the ultimate goal of the research team and Katabi’s company is to implement this technology to make it available in every home. Such diseases as Alzheimer’s, COPD and other pulmonary diseases, Parkinson’s, depression and others, says Katabi, can be monitored using this box. It can detect decline or other changes in breathing and other parameters and share this information with doctors so that they can attend immediately and thus prevent hospitalization or ensure a timely response to a health problem. The device can even ‘see’ through walls, which makes it even better as an in-home monitoring station. Hospitals can also benefit from installing such systems.

Security matters

Of course, these great features beg the question of whether the security of the system can be compromised. The box’s developers took this potential problem into account and created a barrier that prevents any data processing without a user’s consent. To make the device work, you have to complete predefined movements (like waving your hand in a special way). As it is encrypted, it is difficult to spy on people using the invention.

Here is a TED video in which Prof. Katabi tells the audience about their new project, demonstrates how it works, and explains what uses there may be.

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