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Can Wearable Technology Put a Dent in Parkinson’s Disease?

David Smothers August 13, 2014

Wearable technology has clear applications for healthcare, but it’s just one tool. To really find better treatments and cures for disease, the data from the wearable needs to reach beyond a single patient and become part of an aggregate, which medical researchers all over the world can access and analyze.

In other words, it needs big data.

That's exactly what Intel and the Michael J. Fox foundation are teaming up to achieve. The two parties have begun trials where patients afflicted with the disease use a wearable device, paired with a smartphone, to continuously gather health data and transmit it to a cloud analytics service. From there, researchers can use the data to see what treatments are working and which need refinement.

In many cases, analyzing Parkinson's is very low-tech. Patients visit a doctor every few months, who then make diagnoses based on how well the person performs some actions such as tapping their nose or touching fingers together, Fox Foundation CEO Todd Sherer said in a webcast announcing the partnership. It's highly subjective and doesn't take into account the variable nature of the disease (many Parkinson's patients have good days and bad days).

On the other hand, a sensor-laden wearable can continuously measure the patient's movements 24 hours a day, seven days a week a sensor-laden wearable can continuously measure the patient's movements 24 hours a day, seven days a week — something crucial when analyzing a disease that affects motor functions. The wearables used in the initial Intel-backed trials were able to track 300 data points every second and gathered 1GB of data every day, said Diane Bryant, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Data Center Group.

All that data gets uploaded into an Intel-made cloud platform built on top of Cloudera software. The analytics software quickly detects anomalies in the data so researchers can more closely measure to progress of the disease. Over time, and by adding other data like genetics into the mix, the tech could lead to new insights and treatments.

Intel says the software it created for the trials is adaptable, and it could be used to track any number of diseases of conditions.

The Fox Foundation says the data will be "open access" to researchers who want it. The data will be anonymized, Bryant said, so there will be nothing to tie anything in the aggregate data back to individual patients.

Trials for the next phase of the research are scheduled for this fall. If you're interested in participating, you can register at the Fox Foundation's site.

[via mashable]

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