The university’s Institute of Data Science and Computing works with GE Global Research to develop safe, intelligent technologies that can improve patient outcomes.
Imagine a future where health sensors are strategically placed throughout a person’s house to check their vital signs every day and alert them to potential hazards, like suddenly stepping into the living room. Outside the home, sensors can measure local pollen or pollution levels in the air. And for elderly residents, applications streamed through devices like their phone or a smart speaker could remind them to take medication on time.
These amenities could allow aging to stay in their homes longer, and it could also cut some of the costs associated with healthcare today, say computer science experts at the University of Miami.
Understanding how this data can be linked to your doctor’s records from home while protecting privacy is challenging, however.
That’s why the university’s tech powerhouse is that Institute for Data Science and Data Processing (IDSC) has entered into a strategic partnership with General Electric Global Research to study various topics related to health and digital transformation, including smart home technology that can easily interact with digital health platforms.
“We seek to promote healthy aging and smart homes concepts that improve people’s quality of life while respecting the economy and public safety,” said Yelena Yesha, IDSC’s chief innovation officer and visiting professor of computer science. “The need for these things has obviously been accelerated by the pandemic, but it has also been driven by the desire of many aging people not to move to assisted living facilities or nursing homes but to age gracefully in the comfort of their own homes.”
Nick Tsinoremas, director of IDSC and vice-provost of the university for research, computers and data, said doctors’ access to a patient’s smart home data will help them get a more accurate picture of a person’s health. For example, if a person has allergies and a sensor in or around their home is picking up high levels of pollen or mold, this warning can help the doctor prescribe a more useful medication or highlight the fact that a home repair is needed.
“We want to create intelligent systems to understand how all these factors can affect a person’s health,” added Tsinoremas.
Over the course of the project, IDSC and GE want to extend this research to the population level too, so that local public health officials can learn if any part of their community is experiencing certain symptoms and then potentially identify viruses before they spread further.
“We could integrate this information to identify hot spots for unusual symptoms or unusual viruses,” Yesha said.
As part of the partnership, IDSC and GE are also working to develop technologies that will help reduce congestion in public spaces such as airports and government buildings, where people often have to be in person. Technology gurus envision an application similar to what some theme parks use to display visitors’ waiting times for rides. Instead, it would reveal the density of people in various public places.
However, new capabilities to interconnect health technology networks mean more security and privacy concerns. Overcoming these barriers while protecting patient privacy is an important part of the effort.
Leveraging 5G connectivity to power these sensors will pave the way for advances in health and safety monitoring, said Michael Mylrea, senior director of cybersecurity research and development for operational technology at GE Global Research and co-primary investigator for the initiative .
“For these advances to be sustained, data must be collected, shared and stored in a way that puts the security, privacy and privacy of end users first,” said Mylrea. “One of the challenges is that networks in smart cities are increasingly connected to cyberspace, as is the risk of cyber threats. These efforts will help turn this huge amount of data into information and unlock the potential of intelligent infrastructures and systems. “
While an interdisciplinary team of faculty members at the university is working on the concepts and testing some prototypes, GE will transfer these ideas to the commercial market. This university team – led by Tsinoremas, Yesha and Rodolphe el-Khoury, dean of the School of Architecture – is in active contact with staff from GE, other universities and government agencies such as the US Department of Homeland Security to bring their ideas to life safely. The team will use the University of AT & T’s 5G Edge technology to build and test the software so that these new products are ready for the future, Tsinoremas said.
Yesha and Tsinoremas believe the benefits of securely converging smart home and digital health data could be plentiful.
“This will lower health care costs as it provides preventative measures and limits situations – like unnecessary falls – that lead to emergency calls,” Yesha said. “When you talk to seniors, they don’t want to move, but they can’t get all of the health services they need in their homes. So if we can bring all of these services to their home it could change the dynamics and increase their longevity based on prior prevention and diagnosis. “