Forward-looking “fast care” medical technology project at Harz University of Applied Sciences

Intelligent support systems for care in the home

A medical technology project with the name of "fast care" is underway at Harz University of Applied Sciences. The goal of the forward-looking project is to make it easier for old people and people in need of assistance to contact doctors and providers of medical care, particularly if their personal mobility is restricted. "With the help of faster networks, we want to bring real-time communication for medical applications directly into the domestic environment," explains Prof. Dr. Ulrich Fischer-Hirchert, a university lecturer at the Department of Automation and Computer Science in Wernigerode.

The primary focus is the development of a real-time sensor framework for intelligent assistance systems in the areas of Ambient Assisted Living, eHealth, mHealth, Tele-Rehab and Tele-Care. The expert explains: "in this context, we understand real-time to mean the human reaction time; when we touch something, it is sent to our brain within ten milliseconds. The same speed should now also appily to networks – so that the doctor is able to advise and examine the patient on a remote basis." The system aims to have a latent period of less than ten milliseconds, which will allow for the creation and analysis of real-time medical images. With sensors that are integrated into the home environment, for example, it will also be possible to monitor the walking and breathing of rehabilitation patients in real-time, to complete analyses, and to actively carry out interventions in the event of risks.

"Achieving the rapid speeds is the key challenge in this project," stresses Fischer-Hirchert. The aim of the research is to overcome these hurdles by 2019 and to set up a demonstrator in the laboratory which demonstrates that a patient can retain their independence with the help of the intelligent assistance systems. "The most interesting thing for us is our collaboration with colleagues who are at the cutting edge of research – this will enable us to raise our profile at the international level. This project is unique worldwide," reports the professor.

The project has been arranged to run for three years, and counts the following partners in addition to Harz University of Applied Sciences: the University of Rostock, the Otto-von-Guericke University of Magdeburg, Dresden University of Technology, HarzOptics GmbH, Ottobock Health GmbH, Exelonix and Bosch Sensortec GmbH. "Fast care" has been facilitated with the support of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of the "Twenty20 – Partnership for Innovation" programme.