U Florida, IBM, Collaborate on Health Monitoring Tech

The University of Florida and IBM Corp. have jointly  developed technologies that they say will lead to devices that can automatically and transparently monitor a variety of personal health indicators.

The technology creates a "roadmap" for commercial development of sensor-type devices which could take a person's temperature or blood pressure as soon as they entered their house and transmit it to doctors or family. Transparent remote monitoring systems could potentially eliminate the need for many doctor's visits on the part of the elderly.

Sumi Helal, a professor of computer engineering and the project's lead UF researcher called the idea, "quality of life engineering." "It's really a change of mindset," he said.

The researchers said their discovery provides technological "stepstones" that will make it easy for any company to manufacture and sell smart networked devices--while also making them more user-friendly for consumers.

"UF and IBM both see the need and the opportunity to integrate the physical world of sensors and other devices directly into enterprise systems," said Richard Bakalar, the chief medical officer for IBM. "Doing so in an open environment will remove market inhibitors that impede innovation in critical industries like health care and open a broader device market that's fueled by uninterrupted networking."

The heart of the technology, which UF developed with $60,000 in funding from IBM, is open-standard-based middleware that makes it easy for devices to connect to each other. The hardware component is a business card-sized sensor platform called Altas that makes it easy to create a network of sensors.

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About the Author

Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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