Fujitsu and National University Singapore to develop body sensor network for health monitoring
13 December 2012
Fujitsu Laboratories of Europe Limited, Fujitsu Asia Pte Ltd and the National University of Singapore (NUS) have announced a collaboration to establish a new joint research programme called Body Sensor Network for Disease Management and Prevention-Oriented Healthcare.
Fujitsu will be working closely with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the NUS Faculty of Engineering, as well as the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.
Over the programme duration, the initial objectives involve developing a wireless body sensor network, designed for continuous patient monitoring, both in hospital and in the home, and connected to a “health cloud” for remote processing by computers and healthcare providers. The wireless biomedical sensors form a wireless body sensor network around the body, enabling a patient’s vital signs to be collected and transmitted in a context-sensitive manner. The recorded physiological data are stored and processed in the Health Cloud and, in the case of any abnormalities being detected, the Health Cloud creates flags to alert healthcare providers.
Ultimately, it is envisaged that the research project could deliver a number of benefits for both patients and healthcare professionals. The wireless body sensor network enables the patients to remain mobile and provides them uninterrupted rest as the need for nurses physically to take regular measurements at fixed locations is removed.
For healthcare professionals, wireless monitoring and automated analysis of a variety of complex and customised parameters significantly reduces their workload, enabling them to make more informed and better decisions for their patients. For example, alerts automatically sent to healthcare practitioners can be customised and pre-programmed so that they take into consideration the specific patient’s age, gender and/or medical history.
The collaboration will be deploying research and development innovations jointly developed by both Fujitsu Laboratories of Europe in the UK, and Fujitsu Asia, including the cloud data platform and a range of associated services.
NUS will contribute its experience in tackling medical challenges with innovative devices, exemplified by the ultra-low powered electrocardiography (ECG) digital self-adhesive plaster technology — for comfortable and continuous ECG monitoring — that was developed by its Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in consultation with cardiologists from the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.
Clinicians from the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and healthcare practitioners from the National University Hospital will play a critical role in defining the user specifications of this project, and in conducting the requisite in-patient clinical studies. The NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health will conduct the field trials for outpatient applications. This programme will be led by Professor Yong Lian of NUS’ Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. This collaboration is funded by a National Research Foundation Competitive Research Programme grant (8th grant call).
Dr Adel Rouz, Executive Vice President, Fujitsu Laboratories of Europe, explained the rationale: “This is an extremely important collaboration for Fujitsu Laboratories of Europe, with the ultimate goal of developing an end-to-end solution for disease management, combined with the potential to establish new business models for future healthcare. Our joint vision is to provide innovative solutions that facilitate prevention-oriented, personalised, patient-centric and data-centric healthcare for in-patient and homecare applications.
"By enabling medical staff to monitor their patients more effectively and cost-efficiently, we are aiming to help improve patient recovery and throughput as a result of better monitoring, as well as enabling a reduction in staffing overheads. We are delighted to be working in partnership with the NUS on this exciting and groundbreaking project.”
Wong Heng Chew, President of Fujitsu Singapore, said: “Similar to other countries facing the effects of an ageing population, Singapore is looking to leverage on information technology (IT) to transform the healthcare sector in order to better address and improve the quality of healthcare management. With this partnership, Fujitsu hopes to empower individuals to take charge of their own health, and bring the community one step closer to an improved healthcare provision and management system.”
Professor Barry Halliwell, Deputy President (Research and Technology) National University of Singapore, added: “This collaboration is made possible due to the fact that we have all the necessary expertise within one organisation, and in close proximity. This includes engineers at our Faculty of Engineering, the clinician scientists at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, researchers from the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health and the facilities and healthcare professionals at the National University Hospital, who will be involved during the clinical trials. NUS is delighted to be collaborating with Fujitsu in this research project that aims to translate technologies from the laboratory into applications that can boost healthcare for patients, as well as to improve workflow for healthcare professionals.”
Among the programme’s specific objectives are the further development of a wireless sensor plaster for ECG, temperature, and respiration monitoring, as well as wireless wristband sensors for taking patients’ blood pressure, temperature and oxygen saturation readings.
A range of medical team applications, designed for use by doctors and nurses, will be tested during pre-clinical trials in a training ward, followed by full clinical trials in a mainstream ward at the National University Hospital. In addition, the programme will conduct home trials with a number of volunteer patients, with the aim of creating a new generation of user-focused applications for the homecare sector.
The ultimate aim is to enable patients to lead independent lives, removing the need to be connected to monitoring and sensing stations for long periods of time, while freeing up hospital resources for urgent patient treatment. By providing early warnings and alarms of significant deviations from normal physiological conditions, patients will also benefit from earlier corrective intervention, encouraging better outcomes.