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Digital assistant monitors respiration

Patients with respiratory diseases have to adapt their lifestyle to the illness. A digital assistant can help them to do so, using a respiration monitoring system integrated directly in their clothing. Fraunhofer researchers will be presenting the technology at CeBIT in Hanover on March 4 through 9.

Avoid irritants, breathe properly, have plenty to drink, get regular exercise, keep an asthma diary – patients with chronic respiratory diseases have to lead a highly disciplined life. In future, a digital patient assistant can help them to do so: It keeps a log of their behavior, reminds them to do their breathing exercises, provides telemedical services and a direct line to the therapist, and provides them with information such as suitable bicycle tours. Research scientists from the Fraunhofer Institutes for Software and Systems Engineering ISST and for Integrated Circuits IIS will be presenting the system at CeBIT, using a bicycle guide as an example. The digital assistant acts as a navigation device and tells the cyclists about places of interest with the aid of video clips. More than anything, however, it takes care of the person’s health needs, as ISST project manager Thomas Königsmann reports: “The PDA suggests suitable tours and monitors the patient’s respiration values during the bicycle tour.” In the evening, the doctor can check out the data and get an idea of how the patient’s health is progressing. If necessary, he or she can adjust the medication dosage on the basis of the data obtained. The patient’s respiration can be monitored with the RespiSENS measuring system developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS. This is integrated directly in an item of clothing, and registers how fast and how strongly the wearer is breathing. The measurements are taken with the aid of respiration straps, which are conductors integrated into a T-shirt in a zig-zag pattern across the patient’s chest and stomach, and which emit an electric signal when expanded. The raw data are transmitted to a tiny module that records and processes them, then transmits the information to a cell phone or a PDA. If the value fails to reach a certain pre-defined level, the system sets off an alarm. “The device requires only a very low current, and is so small that it causes no discomfort in the patient’s clothing,” says project manager Andreas Tobola. “The module itself is no bigger than a matchbook, and then there is a small rechargeable battery for the power supply.” The measuring system is suitable for a wide range of applications: in the diagnosis of sleep disorders, in remote care of patients or even in sports. Professional and amateur athletes can use it to measure their breathing rate and effort with great reliability. The digital patient assistant and the RespiSENS measuring system will be on display at the Fraunhofer stand B36 in Hall 9.

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