School of Biomedical Informatics


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Wearable Technology and Cell Phone Apps do more than Count Steps


Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Everyone seems to be jumping on the wearable bandwagon. They’ve popped up on wrists, in pockets, and through cell phone apps, promising to help consumers live healthier lives. This is an admirable goal and the success of companies like Fitbit and Jawbone are a testament to the importance that consumers place on factors like diet and exercise.

As health care and technology experts test the boundaries of wearables and smartphones, new products are being created that tackle a wide array of issues in health care.

Here are some of our favorite new technologies and apps:

1. Seizure detection

Take, for example, the Embrace Watch. Developed by a company called Empatica, the watch comes with its usual bells and whistles, and an added bonus. It detects electrical responses in the skin, using this data to detect stress levels and even imminent seizure activity. If there is a risk of seizure, an alert is sent to the cell phones of loved ones who are hooked up to the app.

2. Symptom monitoring

Another innovative technique for data collection comes in the form of a smartphone app. A new app developed by Roche Pharma Research & Early Development helps individuals who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease by monitoring fluctuations in their symptoms. Through the app, individuals are guided through a series of active tests. Their phone also monitors their behavior passively, and over time the app allows them to track how their symptoms may have changed.

3. Pill reminders

Here at UTHealth’s School of Biomedical Informatics, we’re making our mark in the industry as well. Anna Xu, a doctoral student at SBMI and the vice president of our Student Governance Organization, has focused her research on helping the aging and elderly population maintain independent lifestyles. She is currently developing a mobile app, called Pill Muncher, which will encourage users to take their medication. This app will help patients maintain their independence while also being attentive to their health care needs.

Health care meets technology

These are just a few examples of how technology and data are being harnessed to help consumers lead happier, healthier lives. These new applications represent the intersection of health care, computer science, and programming.

The potential is limitless, and the data collected through these devices and apps will experts to continue to innovate. As a leading institution in biomedical informatics, you can bet that SBMI will be on the forefront of these developments.

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