PARC Hard at Work to Solve Problems in Health Care, Batteries, Traffic
Health Care: Video Cameras, Image Processing to Monitor Patient's Vital Signs
It is very important to continuously monitor the heart rate of a premature infant. But the current methods for capturing that data are very intrusive. They rely on placing electrodes on an infant's paper-thin skin or attaching sensors to a tiny finger or earlobe. PARC is in the early stages of a research project that uses non-obtrusive video cameras and image processing technologies to obtain accurate cardiac pulse measurements. Contactless monitoring of vitals such as a heart rate will help eliminate patient discomfort, reduce the chance of infections and help medical professionals work more efficiently.
Health Care: Applying Ethnography to Understand What People Really Do
Human-centered insights and ethnography help identify unmet customer needs, lead to practices that work and generate products and services that sell. PARC's ethnography approach combines systematic data capture and rigorous analysis to uncover and reveal a detailed picture of what people actually do—as opposed to just what they say they do. Adding human-centered insights to projects that span a variety of disciplines and application spaces also helps break down the silos that commonly separate research, engineering, social science, design and business strategy.
Health Care: Medication Management
Medication works best if it is taken properly. Insurance companies estimate there is a $290 billion cost associated with people not adhering to their doctors' orders. Xerox is working on a "smart" medication system to help patients more easily manage their daily pill regimen (which might include both vitamins and over the counter meds). The system also helps coordinate information between doctors, specialists, pharmacists and patients. Using innovations in personalization, data collection and packaging, the system organizes medication, provides personalized instruction and then tracks whether a patient is adhering to doctor's orders. Caregivers and family members can easily discern if medication is being taken properly.
Health Care: Cloud-Based Health Records Training
Doctors and clinicians rarely have extra time to learn new IT. This project enables clinicians to spend less time learning and more time treating patients. This cloud-enabled, role-based method reduces EHR (electronic health records) training time by as much as 90 percent and increases end-user confidence over traditional training methods. A training application, PromisePoint is an online simulator—much like pilots use for flight training—for learning specific tasks; caregivers try those tasks in an environment that replicates the live environment and then test themselves on the material they've learned. Lessons are only minutes long.
Health Care: Digital Nurse Assistant
Caregivers need real-time data about their patients. Digital Nurse Assistant (DNA) is a new electronic medical record extender developed by the Xerox Healthcare Provider Solutions group in conjunction with PARC. The DNA automates many tasks that nurses currently handle by hand. For example, as physicians update orders, medications arrive at a hospital unit and new patients are admitted, nurses must re-prioritize their tasks accordingly. Using a tablet PC that automatically receives these updates and re-prioritizes the work according to criticality and policy is a huge advantage. Dr. Walter Johnson of PARC explains the system here.
Transportation: Making It Easier to Park With Dynamic Pricing
Looking for somewhere to park on city streets is a main cause of urban congestion and pollution. PARC has developed an analytics-based engine that dynamically adjusts parking rates (usually $3 to $5 per hour) based on demand for spaces. It models how people choose parking spaces and the flexibility that drivers have about where, when and for how long they stay. The parking engine is now being tested in Xerox's new Merge parking management system, which is a single portal for managing a city's meters, pay-by-mobile phone, sensors, enforcement and collections. Wireless, battery-powered sensors are installed in each parking space. The system is now being tested on 7,000 spaces in downtown Los Angeles.
Transportation: Using Analytics to Make Public Transportation Networks More Effective
As a passenger, every time you swipe your credit card or ticket, you let the operator know when and where you started your journey. Yet, instead of making use of such valuable information, it often lies around unused. Xerox's expertise in analyzing printer data is being used on ticketing data to give city transportation agencies a better understanding of how travelers actually use public transit, enabling government organizations to better respond to customer needs. The data can be combined with demographics and other kinds of transportation and weather forecasts to simulate ridership and predict the impact of changes to the infrastructure. The system has already been deployed in several European cities.
Education: Ignite Educator Support System
Teachers lack the support tools for managing data/using data analytics to help personalize instruction in the classroom. Ignite, currently being piloted in K-6 grade classrooms, is a teacher support system that makes personalized instruction in the classroom practical. It transforms hand-marked student work on paper today (and tablets tomorrow) into the digital domain, manages the data and provides real-time feedback—via the cloud—that helps educators and parents understand what to do with the data to address individual student needs.
Energy: Innovating Battery Product Processes to Increase Performance
One of the challenges in transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy is the availability of cost-effective and portable energy storage. For example, the development of more efficient batteries at low cost is crucial for the growth of the electric vehicle market. PARC is developing a proven, co-extrusion printing technique, where dissimilar materials can be deposited side by side at high speed, enhancing both the energy and power densities of batteries. This cost-effective technique can be applied to both cathodes and anodes for most battery chemistries. PARC's Scott Elrod explains this co-extrusion process here.
Digital Design and Manufacturing: How the U.S. Can Reinvent Manufacturing
Digital IT is enabling a greater variety of products to be made at lower volumes and lower costs. Examples include additive manufacturing (such as 3D printing), reconfigurable production lines, integrated design and manufacturing (shown in this photo), and collaborative design. Not only will these technologies usher in a new wave of mass customization and personalization, but we also will see significant shifts in how products are developed, made and delivered to retailers and consumers. PARC researchers are combining 3D printing with electronics assembly to enable the printing of functional objects. In the future, you'll be able to design your own Bluetooth headset and print it at your local tech shop, or design a new smart watch for Kickstarter that can be easily manufactured through a customized, virtual supply chain.
Just for Fun: Beanbag Chairs
The original bean bag chair was invented by a group of Italian designers in the 1960s, originally called the Sacco. Shortly after PARC was established in the early 1970s, somebody thought it would be a good thing to have these brought into the culture at PARC. They quickly became popular at PARC. "One of the reasons PARC used them was because we discovered it was impossible to leap to your feet to denounce somebody after you sat in the bean bag chair, because you tended to sink into it further and further. So it had a way of relaxing people, and it was very good for design," said former PARC scientist Alan Kay.