Conference on Body Sensors Solicits Wild Ideas
UT Dallas Organizer Hopes Looking for Novel Approaches to Discipline
Mar. 17, 2011
This year’s International Conference on Body Sensor Networks in Dallas will feature one important addition to the usual parade of papers and presentations: One session will be dedicated to wild and crazy ideas.
Comparable to the reasoning behind concept cars in which automakers display far-out designs that may never reach the showroom floor, the session encourages researchers to discuss seemingly radical applications for body sensors long before participants are prepared to submit scholarly papers on such applications.
Dr. Dinesh Bhatia
“This promotes extreme out-of-the-box ways of looking at things,” said Dr. Dinesh Bhatia, general chair of the May 23-25 conference’s organizing committee and a UT Dallas professor of electrical engineering. “Exploring those ideas and initiating new efforts that come out of them can lead to a big payoff from concepts that aren’t fully formed yet.”
Still in its early stages, body sensor network technology is intended to enable inexpensive, continuous health monitoring using wearable or implantable intelligent sensors integrated into a network. Applications include not only monitoring the functioning of vital organs but also detecting early signs of trouble such as an elderly person becoming more prone to falling.
Researchers are also exploring applications to athletics in which sensors would both help athletes improve their technique and avoid injury.
As new as it is, body sensor network technology is a wide open field. Establishing ways to maintain the privacy of medical data is one basic area that’s particularly important at this stage. Plus there are basic physical obstacles to overcome.
“The body is a harsh environment for implanted wireless sensors,” said Bhatia, director of the Embedded and Adaptive Computing Group in the University’s Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. “The sensors have to be very small and consume very little power, and they have to be placed strategically in order to transmit effectively from inside our water-based bodies.”
While the field is still developing, though, it’s timely to speculate about what’s possible.
“Ten years ago it was just a concept to have a wireless device in a pacemaker or an artificial knee that would gather data and watch for indications of problems, but now that’s being done,” he said. “It’s a good time to discuss what else is possible.”
The conference’s organizing committee includes experts from Harvard Medical School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Imperial College of London and the University of California, Berkeley. The technical program for the conference is being finalized under the leadership of Dr. Roozbeh Jafari of UT Dallas and Dr. John Lach of the University of Virginia. Conference tutorials have been selected under the leadership Dr. S. Venkatesan of UT Dallas. Some 200 researchers from leading international institutions are expected to attend.
Contest is Designed as a Challenge
to Set Standards in a Growing Field
The growth in body sensor network research brings into focus the need for consistency in the way such devices collect, store and share data.
That’s why organizers of a new contest are offering cash prizes to those who can contribute to establishing standards in the field.
“This is the very first contest we’re aware of that is being organized for researchers and experts in the area of wearable computers and wireless health monitoring,” said Dr. Roozbeh Jafari, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at UT Dallas.
Dr. Roozbeh Jafari
The contest, which is being held in conjunction with May body sensor conference, is scheduled for May 25.
Details are available at the contest website.