Wearable Devices in Healthcare: Smartwatch Gives Glimpse of Future

A young innovator who witnessed the devastation of his grandfather’s stroke decided to do something about it.

When Marek Novak’s grandfather suffered a stroke two years ago, he was relieved his grandfather lived, but the outcome could have been a whole lot better.

When medical treatment is administered within three hours of a stroke, damage can be minimized. Unfortunately, the elder was alone in his yard at the time and lay on the grass for some time before rescue, resulting in further brain injury and permanent loss of the use of his arms and legs.

Distressed over his grandfather’s sudden quadriplegia, Novak — a high school student and lifelong tinkerer based in the Czech Republic — decided to put his considerable smarts, creativity and technical know-how to work to design a remote healthcare monitoring system that could spare others the same fate.

His goal: to design and develop a “wireless body area network” for monitoring and processing personal physiological data.

Novak’s system, dubbed Artemis, makes use of a number of small, low-power sensors attached to a user’s body or clothing. Unlike other sensors on the market today that are geared toward sports and outdoor use and measure only motion and heart rate, Novak’s design is one of the first to combine multiple low-power sensors to measure health indicators, such as heart rate, blood oxygen level, temperature, degree of mobility and location.

This data is relayed to a smartwatch worn on the wrist. The information is shared remotely with a central unit, run by an Intel Galileo development board, which performs analysis, shares results with appropriate parties and alerts emergency response when necessary.

The range of other more limited devices tends to be around 10 to 30 feet. Novak’s smartwatch device, in contrast, includes a GSM module, which means range is only limited by GSM coverage.

His system can relay information up to 300 feet, via a long-range wireless link, to reach a web interface developed with the Intel Galileo board.

“I chose the Galileo board because it offered the most advanced technology, consumed little power and was affordable,” says Novak, who reports that the expense of equipment and components was perhaps the biggest obstacle he faced in his work. Novak built his prototype at home and on a shoestring budget.

For his work, Novak was awarded a Second Award in the category of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, as well as special awards from NASA and United Technologies, at the 2014 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).

“Attending Intel ISEF was one of the best experiences of my life,” says Novak. “The positive feedback from judges made me realize that these things I feel driven to create could truly help people and even have global impact. It was completely inspiring.”

In addition, Novak believes Intel ISEF was the launch pad for his budding career.

“You know, creating something meaningful requires knowledge in a particular field, but also a much broader range of skills,” says the now 19-year-old. “As a developer, I have had to be a bit physicist, a bit biologist, a bit chemist, a bit marketer, but also — and perhaps most surprising — a bit psychologist and a bit philosopher. The power of Intel ISEF is that it helps young innovators like me develop all these skills in a motivating and fun way, while also preparing for entry into the professional sphere.”

In fact, it was the notoriety of his participation in Intel ISEF that led TSE s.r.o., a Czech electronics company, to offer Novak a significant scholarship for college, as well as a job. As a result, Novak is pursuing a degree in bioengineering at Czech Technical University, while also working at TSE s.r.o. to develop pediatric care instruments, including sensors for neonatal incubators and devices for the treatment of jaundice.

For Novak, this is a dream come true.

“I consider bioengineering to be one of the finest engineering disciplines because it offers one the opportunity to create devices to enable people to live longer and better,” he says. “I plan to dedicate my life to helping others through science.”

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