Systems-based approach pays off

[ubermenu config_id=”main” menu=”84″] NEWSROOM Systems-based approach pays offOct 30, 2014 The goal of the Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST) – creating wearable hea …

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Systems-based approach pays off

Oct 30, 2014

The goal of the Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST) – creating wearable health monitoring systems that are powered by the human body – is closer to becoming a reality.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) established ASSIST in 2012 with NC State as the lead institution. The goal: to improve global public health by combining nanotechnology and the power of the human body to create devices that measure patients’ health and the environment that surrounds them as they go about their lives.

Graduate student James Dieffenderfer, left, and undergraduate Eric Beppler work on the SoliBand, a solar-powered health monitoring device that is worn on the wrist.Fresh off its second site visit from NSF officials this spring, ASSIST is making big strides in human energy harvesting an d building its first device platform. The network of industry partners that is supporting ASSIST is still growing as companies realize the kind of groundbreaking work the center is doing, Director Dr. Veena Misra, professor of electrical and computer engineering, said.

This year’s site visit was held at the University of Virginia, one of three ASSIST partner institutions. Florida International University and Penn State University are also partners, and critical center research is also being done at UNC-Chapel Hill and the University of Michigan. The University of Adelaide in Australia, the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and the Tokyo Institute of Technology are global partners.

Whether the devices that grow from ASSIST research are worn as a patch on the chest or like a wristwatch, they will need to draw power from the human body. The amount of power our bodies produce varies throughout the day, depending on what type of activity we are involved in. The boost converters built into ASSIST devices will be tasked with powering the system, even when the user is snoozing on the couch.

Just as important in the first two years has been work on flexible form factors – finding ways to have the device adhere to the skin with minimal energy loss – and creating the ultra-low-power radios needed to transmit the health and environmental data gathered by the system.

With the ASSIST-developed platform, devices that take a number of health and environmental readings can be built. By the end of this year, ASSIST researchers hope to have a prototype respiratory tracker that takes an electrocardiogram reading from the patient and measures ozone in the air, then uses an algorithm to extrapolate the wearer’s respiratory rate.

During this year’s site visit, ASSIST leaders emphasized to NSF officials the strength of the center’s systems-driven approach. The center’s research areas come from the system specifications determined by end users – physicians, environmental scientists and electronic product manufacturers with a need for the systems ASSIST is working on. ASSIST’s list of industry partners is long and includes hospitals and medical device makers along with energy harvesting and fitness companies.

“At the end of the day,” Misra said, “industry is our gauge to how we are doing.”

The hope is ASSIST partners take the technology being developed in the center and run with it, leading not just to economic development but also healthier lives.

“The long-term impact of our center’s success is going to be measured by industry,” she said. “If you can create an impact in industry, create jobs, create new directions for the wearable space, that’s really the success.”

Credit:  NCSU Engr News Article “Systems-based approach pays off”

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