National Science Foundation awards grant to develop mHealth jewelry

Mobile health is getting fashionable. Researchers from Clemson University and Dartmouth College have been awarded a $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant to launch a project to design and develop "computational jewelry" to support mHealth apps, according to an announcement.

Called the Amulet project, an interdisciplinary team of investigators is working on an electronic bracelet and software framework that will enable developers to "create user-friendly, safe, secure and efficient mHealth applications that fit seamlessly into everyday life." Among its capabilities, Amulet will track the use of medications and send reminders when it's time for another dose. The wristband will also provide critical health data to responders if the wearer experiences a medical emergency.

"Our vision is that computational jewelry, in a form like a bracelet or pendant, will provide the properties essential for successful body-area mHealth networks," said Jacob Sorber, assistant professor in Clemson University's School of Computing, in a written statement. "These devices coordinate the activity of the body-area network and provide a discreet means for communicating with their wearer."

The devices will "complement the capabilities of a smartphone, bridging the gap between the type of universal computing possible with a mobile phone and enabled by a wearable computing device," states the announcement. In addition, researchers are determining the degree to which computational jewelry offers advantages in availability, reliability, security, privacy and usability' and developing techniques that provide these properties in spite of the severely constrained power resources of wearable jewelry.

"Unlike popular fitness trackers, this wristband talks to your other health and fitness devices, so they know it's you using them and gives you a quick and easy way to approve the transfer of health information from one device to another or to your health record at your direction, therefore preserving privacy," said Sorber.

A 2012 market report raised the possibility of wearable technology that is "always on, always accessible and easily worn on the body, [typically with] real-time information access, data-input capabilities, local storage and some form of collaborative-communications ability." The report's list of wearable technology platforms includes watches, glasses, smart fabrics, contact lenses, small screens, rings and bracelets, hearing aid-like devices called "hearware," smart badges, wrist computers and even smart skin tattoos.

To learn more:
- read the announcement