Shoe-phone is the future of mobile biomedical apps

04 Mar 2009
00:00

Stop me if you've heard this one before: wireless biomedical apps that originated from a classic television comedy show.

No‾ Would you believe a phone embedded in a shoe as a prototype for remote patient monitoring‾

If not, you'd be wrong. A researcher at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia has taken inspiration from the 1960s American television show and James Bond spoof Get Smart to create one of Agent Maxwell Smart's more famous gadgets: a working shoe phone.

Paul Gardner-Stephen, a post-doctoral fellow in bioinformatics at Flinders, built the shoe-phone using a Motorola V620 handset and a Motorola H500 Bluetooth headset. The handset goes into the hollowed-out heel of one shoe, and the headset in the other. When the phone rings, use the headset shoe to talk. You can also use the V620's voice dialing function to make calls.

The idea is a bit gimmicky, but the real idea, for Gardner-Stephen, is to showcase a similar model for biomedical apps in which shoes fitted with such technology can use the Bluetooth link to connect to sensors monitoring a patient's pulse, blood pressure, blood oxygenation, etc.

Phone modules with more advanced electronics like accelerometers could also detect when a patient is walking or has fallen down.

Why shoes‾ Because, says Gardner-Stephen, shoes are everyday objects that people wear anyway, and are less likely to forget, particularly elderly patients. Also, because shoes by design involve motion, and because plenty of research has already been done on the ability to capture kinetic motion as a power source for rechargeable batteries, the kinetic energy from walking around can be harvested to keep the batteries of the electronics charged for longer periods of time.

Meanwhile, for those of you more interested in the Maxwell-Smart angle, Gardner-Stephen has also posted his instructions on how to build your own working shoe-phone.

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