From the Smart Grid to Smart Slippers

AT&T Labs researchers are always up to cool and life-changing things, and some of the work they’re doing with Machine-To-Machine (M2M) technology, such as its current “smart slipper” trial, is already making an impact on healthcare.

“Smart slippers” wirelessly monitor a person’s gait—say that of an elderly individual or someone recovering from surgery—to identify pressure signatures.

The ability to capture information concerning changes in acceleration and pressure can alert caregivers, enabling them to respond to falls—possibly even prevent them—if the information transferred from the “smart slippers” to caregivers indicates that the wearer is getting wobbly.

Cutting Edge Initiatives

Now underway in several hospitals and universities, the smart slipper trial is one part of a significant new business sector launched recently by AT&T—its ForHealth Practice. Although the practice is a new one for AT&T, cutting edge initiatives are already in progress: services that activate medicine bottles and remind patients to take their pills, devices that remotely monitor a patient’s heart activity or a diabetic’s sugar levels, audio and visual links that replace the need to trek to the doctor’s office.

The Rise of mHealth

Also referred to as mobile health or mHealth, these services are increasing in availability due, in part, to the drastic cost and size reduction of WWAN (wireless wide area network) radio modules. Several medical advances once thought to be cost-prohibitive are now possible, such as inhalers equipped with cellular modules. Physicians who have patients suffering from asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will be able to verify that their patients administer the correct number of “puffs” per day. These devices are so effective they can detect a “dumped” puff, or one where the patient doesn’t fully ingest the spray.

It’s all happening through networking-solutions and cloud-based, mobility and telepresence technologies. AT&T is working with a number of partners to make this happen—including entrepreneurs, large medical facilities, and universities.

These solutions and technologies will fundamentally change the way healthcare is delivered. Expected results include improved patient care, increased cost effectiveness and better healthcare outcomes.

What technology are you most interested in seeing come to market?
What other items could benefit from machine-to-machine ingenuity?
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