IBM WebSphere Enables Creation of Tools to Track Seniors' Health

The University of Alberta is using data from IBM's WebSphere Sensor Events to create a virtual world of avatars to track elderly patients' health and behaviors.

IBM and the University of Alberta are collaborating on a project that involves using IBM WebSphere Sensor Events to create avatars from data gathered from devices monitoring elderly patients.

WebSphere Sensor Events is a platform that captures data from sensors on vital signs such as body weight and heart rate using situational event processing. The software allows researchers to apply rules on event triggers, which prompt software to store data for a particular incident. Then WebSphere performs a sensor event analysis of each event.

Avatars will re-create the elderly patients' real-life activities captured by sensors and help physicians better understand how to care for the elderly population and allow them to remain in their homes longer.

University of Alberta researchers have been working with the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital teaching facility in Edmonton, Alberta, since June to monitor elderly patients in a private living suite called a "Smart Condo."

"The software provides visibility to the physical world by integrating the various types of data the sensors emit," Bernie Kollman, IBM's vice president of public sector for Alberta and co-chair of the board of IBM's Centres for Advanced Studies Alberta, wrote in an email to eWEEK. "It acts as an integration platform that provides the infrastructure to collect, filter and analyze this data, and turn it into the actionable events-in this case, a virtual world video replication of a patient's daily activities."

The avatars exist in an environment called Open Sim, an open-source software tool for creating virtual worlds. Doctors will be able to study the avatars to assess patients' behaviors, such as whether they've taken medication.

Using avatars rather than monitoring patients in real life is less intrusive, according to the researchers.

"We are using an avatar and the visualization to represent the people in the suite, as this is far less intrusive than having a video or live monitoring system on them all the time," Dr. Lili Liu, a professor of occupational therapy at the University of Alberta and research affiliate at Glenrose, said in a statement.

"Instead of recording a video of what's happening in the suite, we're analyzing the sensor data and we're making inferences about what the patient is doing," Eleni Stroulia, NSERC/AITF industrial research chair on service systems management at the University of Alberta, told eWEEK.

NSERC is the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and AITF is Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, an R&D organization in Alberta.