Health & Wellbeing

Smartwatch-based system warns its wearer if they're getting too hot

Smartwatch-based system warns ...
James Balcius tests the prototypedevice
James Balcius tests the prototype system
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James Balcius tests the prototypedevice
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James Balcius tests the prototype system

Heat stroke is one of those things that can really sneak up on a person, potentially resulting in death if not quickly rectified. A new smartwatch-based system is designed to help, by warning its wearer before it's too late.

The experimental setup was developed by an MIT team led by researcher James Balcius.

It consists of a commercially available smartwatch running a custom app, which is linked via Bluetooth to a heart-rate-monitoring armband. By continuously analyzing the heart rate data, a previously developed algorithm within the app is able to estimate the wearer's current body temperature.

As long as that temperature is within the safe zone, the watch displays a thumbs-up symbol against a green background. That display changes to a danger sign against a yellow background if the body temperature is getting a bit too warm, and proceeds to a stop sign against a red background if the temperature is outright too hot – an audible alarm also alerts the wearer at that point.

The US Marine Corps Training and Education Command has been testing 170 prototypes at its basic training sites since last October. It has reported good results, and provided recommendations for improving the technology. One possible upgrade might involve being able to adjust the warning system so that it accounts for individual users' unique physiology.

While the US-Army-funded development project has come to an end, Balcius – who is himself an army veteran – is now looking at applications for the system in the civilian sector.

"In basic training, I had a heat injury," he said. "It's very personal for me to want to stop another person from having to go through that."

Source: MIT

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