The Doctor’s In(sole)
Bob Miller envisions a day when we’ll all be wearing what he calls “medical jewelry.” Miller, executive director of communications technology in the research department of AT&T Labs, is leading the Dallas-based company’s efforts to develop telehealth remote monitoring tools to improve healthcare and lower costs.
The idea of using telecommunications to remotely monitor or diagnose patients has been around for some time, but it is entering a new era of development with broadband and 3G networks, advances in sensors, multimedia information protocols, and secure databases.
In Lubbock, AT&T is working with Texas Instruments, Texas Tech University and New York City company 24Eight to test a unique monitoring system that promises to improve care for senior citizens. During the pilot program, patients at Texas Tech University’s Garrison Geriatric Center are wearing shoes outfitted with balance-sensing insoles.
This technology, originally created by 24Eight with the gaming community in mind, features pressure sensors and accelerometers that let staff assess a patient’s walking patterns and identify potential problems that could lead to serious falls. Miller notes that a facility like Garrison averages about one fall a day, and one in three require ER visits. Five percent of falls by elderly Americans lead to fatal complications. Miller believes that one day soon, telehealth monitoring devices will masquerade as belt buckles or broaches.
Barcode technology that reveals freshness
Jon Cameron had a thought: What if a product’s barcode could tell a consumer whether it had been mishandled or even overheated prior to purchase?
Cameron raised $1 million from family and friends and made Dallas-based Pop! Technologies a reality. Pop!’s barcodes contain an irreversible ink that activates when temperatures rise or fall past a set mark.
“It’s been hard convincing people that an inanimate object can help you,” Cameron says.
The company expects to generate a little more than $3 million in 2009 revenue and its barcodes are used on wine and perishable foods. Medical devices, pharmaceuticals, military applications and even blood supplies are active projects for Pop! barcodes, Cameron says.