Worcester Polytechnic Institute to develop wireless sensor technologies for real-time troop status monitoring

Worcester 10 March 2003The Bioengineering Institute (BEI) at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts has landed its most significant research grant to date for a study in the field of telemedicine. The award, from the United States Army Medical Research and Material Command (USAMRMC) at Fort Detrick, Maryland, provides more than $800.000 to fund the first year of what is expected to be a multi-year commitment to BEI. The Center for Untethered Medicine at BEI will oversee the study to investigate the development of a real-time troop monitoring system using new sensor and wireless communications technologies to remotely track health data and assess injuries.

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The grant for the research study, entitled Real-Time Troop Physiological Status Monitoring System Using a Common Wireless Network, was secured by a multi-disciplinary team of three WPI researchers, William R. Michalson, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering; Yitzhak Mendelson, associate professor of biomedical engineering; and Peder C. Pedersen, professor of electrical and computer engineering.

This study will serve as the foundation in the development of a communication system that integrates new sensor technologies for real-time troop status monitoring, together with a wearable ultrasound imaging system, used by medics for improving remote injury assessment, into a common wireless network. This will enable the location, monitoring and assessment of the status of troops anywhere within the system coverage area at any time. Such a system would facilitate remote triage, improve casualty status assessment, and permit more efficient troop location and identification, along with other benefits.

The objective of this one-year programme is to investigate and initiate the development of key components of the communication system that lie in three technology areas: low-level, wearable, vital sign sensors; human-machine interfaces and diagnostic algorithms to enhance field operation of the ultrasound imaging system; and low-maintenance, field-deployable computer, communications and positioning networks.

"The promise of this real-time, remote monitoring system is that it will save lives by giving decision makers the most accurate and up-to-date picture on the health of soldiers in the field", noted Timothy R. Gerrity, Ph.D., director of WPI's Bioengineering Institute. "The results of this research also promise exciting civilian applications that will empower patients to get better care for both acute and chronic ailments."

The tasks to be performed in this research programme are developing several integrated optical sensor prototypes capable of measuring oxygen saturation and pulse rate simultaneously; enhancing man-machine interfaces for the Terason 2000 ultrasound scanner and improving signal processing algorithms for post-processing ultrasound images; and designing the communication portion of the computer, communications and positioning structure.

Founded in 1865, WPI is a pioneer in technological higher education. WPI was the first university to understand that students learn best when they have the opportunity to apply the knowledge they gain in the classroom to the solution of important problems. Today, its students, working in teams at more than twenty project centres around the globe, put their knowledge and skills to work as they complete professional-level work that can have an immediate positive impact on society.

The university awarded its first advanced degree in 1898. Today, its first-rate research laboratories support master's and Ph.D. programmes in more than thirty disciplines in engineering, science and the management of technology. Located in the heart of the region's biotechnology and high-technology sectors, WPI has built research programmes including the largest industry/university alliance in North America, that have won it worldwide recognition.


Leslie Versweyveld

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