Researchers develop 'Fitbit on steroids' for people with dementia

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This sensing device has been developed at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.
This sensing device has been developed at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology have developed what they are calling a “Fitbit on steroids,” a wearable sensing device that can track the activities and behavior of people with dementia.

The device, worn on the wrist, can track someone's movements, environment, biological signals and more. Soon it will be tested at a local county hospital for its usefulness in rehabilitation and routine evaluation applications.

Resembling an oversized watch, the sensing device has four basic functions:

  1. It records fine-grained movement, as a fitness tracker does.
  2. It measures the wearer's direct physical environment for temperature, humidity and barometric air pressure.
  3. It tracks the wearer's health status through his or her heart rate, respiration rate and skin reactions to stimuli through the sympathetic nervous system, which indicate the wearer's emotional state, such as startled or agitated.
  4. It has functions such as GPS and communication with nearby Bluetooth beacons.

The device could assist caregivers of those with dementia, according to the researchers, by giving them the ability to track fine-grained activities and behavior, measure heart rate and locate the person indoors or outdoors. Additionally, they said, the GPS function could assist with people who wander and may not know how to return.

Photo By Sam O'Keefe, Missouri University of Science and Technology.

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