@BodyNets: Sensors monitor tooth brushing, obesity

By Brian Dolan
07:29 am
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At the BodyNets conference here in Los Angeles, Rice University assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering Lin Zhong just shared a quick synopsis of two of his institution's wireless health projects: childhood obesity monitoring and oral hygiene monitoring.

Zhong described a pilot program Rice carried out to monitor obese children's activity levels and how they correlate to fluctuations in their weight. The kids only needed to attach a sensor with a microSD card built-in to their clothing and keep a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone in their pocket. Zhong said they didn't continuously monitor the data because transmitting it in real-time, all the time would drain the battery of the devices. Physicians and other caregivers, however, were able to pull data whenever they wanted just to ensure the system was working. At the end of the month the caregiver could download all of the data for analysis. In the future the system could include prompts and tips for kids to keep them on certain fitness regimens.

The other project Zhong described for the mobihealthnews team was on oral hygiene. Rice University had developed an intelligent toothbrush that was able to determine how long a person brushed for, what type of movements the toothbrush was making and whether the user brushed comprehensively. Zhong noted that teaching kids to brush correctly is a difficult prospect. Perhaps smart tooth brushes will lead to a generation that doesn't fear the dentist?  

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While these are only pilot devices still in research institutions, their value is already clear. If wireless health inventors would really like to make my dentist happy, though, they're going to have to find a way to embed Bluetooth in my floss.

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