From Dust to Doctors: Wireless Sensor Networks for Medical Applications


October 11, 2005


Wireless sensor network research is being performed to address medical applications. In particular, a common vision found in the research arena is to provide sensing and wireless communication for assisted living facilities to improve lifestyle, to improve health care, and to support long term medical studies. Our research work is solving WSN problems for real-time response, data association, reliability and dependability, security and privacy, and analysis via programs that determine circadian rhythms. The work is taking an end-to-end view from collecting the data (via dust-like motes) to its analysis and use by doctors. As part of this research we are building (and have partly constructed) a WSN-based medical testbed.

The medical testbed focuses on continuous, automatic monitoring of physiological, environmental and activity data for residents in independent and assisted-living facilities. It employs a Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) which is an enabling technology for medical applications in this type of environment. For example, the WSN could detect epileptic seizures or strokes and provide smart homecare by collecting biometric and environmental data for analysis. If an event is detected, it may also provide real-time assistance by notifying emergency healthcare providers and family members. Our proposed WSN system will integrate heterogeneous devices as sensors, actuators and a body network. Some body network systems will be wearable on the patient and some will be placed inside the living space. Also, the multi-hop backbone of the new testbed will connect other traditional systems, such as PDAs, PCs, and databases. The databases will be used for long-term archiving and data mining. We will also be able to connect to large clusters for backend processing, e.g., to execute time consuming circadian rhythm programs.

This talk will describe our research problems, research ideas and the dust to doctor system being developed. It will also describe various collaborations that we have with the UVA medical school, with a medical security project at UVA, and Harvard.


John (Jack) A. Stankovic

Professor John A. Stankovic is the BP America Professor in the Computer Science Department at the University of Virginia. He served as Chair of the department, completing two four year terms. He is a Fellow of both the IEEE and the ACM. He also won the IEEE Real-Time Systems Technical Committee’s Award for Outstanding Technical Contributions and Leadership. Professor Stankovic also served on the Board of Directors of the Computer Research Association for 9 years. Before joining the University of Virginia, Professor Stankovic taught at the University of Massachusetts where he won an outstanding scholar award. He has also held visiting positions in the Computer Science Department at Carnegie-Mellon University, at INRIA in France, and Scuola Superiore S. Anna in Pisa, Italy. He was the Editor-in-Chief for the IEEE Transactions on Distributed and Parallel Systems and is a co-editor-in-chief for the Real-Time Systems Journal. He was also General Chair for ACM SenSys 2004 and he will serve as General Chair for ACM/IEEE IPSN 2006. His research interests are in distributed computing, real-time systems, operating systems, and wireless sensor networks. Prof. Stankovic received his PhD from Brown University. His group successfully completed the DARPA NEST program, delivering a 40,000 line wireless sensor system for military surveillance called VigilNet. This system is currently being further developed for deployment.