As our life spans increase, more services and care will be needed for the elderly, especially those who live independently. Technology clearly has an increasing role to play in improving home care and health monitoring. The latest developments from German research group Fraunhofer are a case in point.

Wearable home care assistance system

The Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems, in association with the German Ministry for Education and Research, has designed of smart watch-like device that can be programmed according to the needs of the elderly wearer and is accessible to all authorized personnel and carers via a web portal.

The concept system provides support services such as reminding users to take their medication or assisting them in navigating trips to and from the doctor, according to Fraunhofer. It can directly contact support staff and also offers Wi-Fi and phone connectivity, so emergency services can be easily contacted. The large interface (though not quite the largest smartwatch design we’ve seen) contains a few basic symbols for simple operation and is programmed in advance according to the person’s needs.

Fraunhofer will present the system at the Medica medical trade show in Düsseldorf this month.

Home health monitoring platform

The Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology has developed a health monitoring system that uses miniature non-invasive sensors, as well as blood sampling equipment to provide on the spot health analysis which can be relayed to a doctor via an internet connection.

Based around a unit where the software and the analytical equipment is housed, Fraunhofer says the system can monitor parameters like blood pressure, glucose, lactate or cholesterol level using wireless sensors that could be, for example, placed a Bluetooth module in the patient’s ear.

A fluorescence sensor using a laser diode captures the concentration. A fluorescence sensor using a laser diode captures the concentration of several cardiac markers The system can also analyze blood samples taken from a finger prick, determining markers via a fluorescence sensor and passing this information on to a doctor who can view it on a smartphone app.

“Miniaturized sensors in the home unit, which can detect traces of the markers down to the nano level, analyze the blood sample”, says Professor Harald Mathis of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT.

There’s no indication at this point as to whether either system is destined for commercialization.

Sources: Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems, Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology

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