Sensors and Gadgets

    Greetings, friends. Today we want to offer you a translation of one interesting article , which raises the topic of embedded sensors and all kinds of wearable gadgets. Moreover, curiosity lies in contrasting these two vectors of development of biomonitoring technologies. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, we recommend reading the article itself!

    There is not much room on our body for wearable gadgets, unless you plan to revive the fashion of the 80s. But what if the various objects with which we are in daily contact — whether we hold them in our hands or simply find ourselves close by — contain different sensors that will monitor our condition and behavior? These are “unbearable” gadgets, because electronics will be imperceptibly for us to be present in a variety of surrounding objects.

    This is the emerging path for the development of sensor network technology. The intangible world around us will soon be able to "understand" us, and wearable sensors will try to constantly measure our behavior and body condition in attempts to calculate what is happening around us. An example is the development of the company PLUX , which produces a cheap modular set of BITalino biosensors. PLUX is experimenting with embedding sensors in car seats to determine the state of the driver and passengers without using wearable devices. This project is called Harken (from the English Heart and Respiration in-Car Embedded Nonintrusive sensors, Non-intrusive, embedded automotive heart rate and respiration sensors). Its purpose is to prevent accidents arising from overwork of drivers. This is achieved by determining the physical state of a person on the basis of information received from sensors: when a person becomes drowsy or even falls asleep, his heart rate and breathing change. In addition to the corresponding sensors, motion sensors with a signal processing unit are also built into the seats, which allows you to distinguish a person's motor activity against the background of shaking and vibration characteristic of a moving car.

    At the moment, the prototype of the driver fatigue detection system is being prepared for testing, so it will take several more years before such a tool begins to be introduced in the automotive industry. There are a large number of regulatory rules, so the adoption of any innovations takes from 3 to 5 years.

    Sensors in the seat and seat belt are connected to the signal processing unit, which, if necessary, warns the driver with vibration and sound that he needs to cheer up. In addition, through a warning it is transmitted to the on-board computer screen of the car. The developers also plan to “teach” the system not only to sound the bells, but also to take measures on their own if the driver falls asleep at the wheel. Cars are becoming smarter and soon it will be possible to use automatic collision avoidance systems, lane keeping, etc.

    So far this is a question of the future, but the demand for the approach itself in the form of measurements using unbearable built-in sensors is growing every year. This in many cases is much more convenient and allows you to take measurements more accurately than when a person is hung with various electronics. Despite the surge of interest in various gadgets with built-in sensors, primarily fitness trackers, the accuracy of their measurements is low. The fact that manufacturers of such devices focus specifically on wearing can indicate that the technology itself is at an early stage of development. Like the Internet of Things version 1.0.

    The implementation of sensors in the surrounding objects with which we interact in specific situations or at certain times, allows us to use much more focused and accurate use cases. Which means more effective. Sensors can be embedded in anything you want: a car wheel, a computer keyboard, a joystick of a set-top box. Another example of intolerable technology is the integration of sensors into the handlebars of a bicycle steering wheel.

    British startup Teddy the Guardian embeds heart rate, oxygen saturation, and temperature sensors in toys like teddy bears. Thanks to these toys, children feel more comfortable in the hospital, and the medical staff immediately receives a signal in the event of a deterioration in the psychological and physical condition of the small patient.

    A noticeable number of adults in ordinary life is also not averse to monitoring their condition, both in consciousness and in sleep. They want to see the results of measurements of their heart rate and respiration, for many of them this is subconscious confirmation that they are alive. It is likely that this is the most active part of buyers of wearable fitness trackers. And in the future - things with built-in multifunctional wireless sensors.

    Most likely, increased interest in this area will arise when people appreciate how unbearable sensors can help in solving specific problems: warning of danger; collection of medical indicators in patients; ejections of toasters before they burn; early diagnosis of tooth problems with a toothbrush, you can continue indefinitely. Even blocking the keyboard when trying to log into ebay while drunk - someone must take care of your money!

    If you do not have a sick child, then you will not have to face the toy Teddy the Guardian. And this is a very important point - the essence of using such sensor technologies is precisely in a point, highly specialized, purposeful application. Only when necessary, unlike wearable gadgets. The data itself does not cost anything, it is only important how you collect and use it. Therefore, I would like to hope that the current trend in the form of wearable devices that count your steps and sighs will soon be replaced by more intelligent, “targeted” systems of built-in sensors that are invisible to the user, but capable of much better solutions to certain tasks. After all, a specialized tool is always better and more convenient to work than the most advanced multitool.

    Of course, the information collected by both arrays of built-in sensors and fitness trackers needs to be processed on something, to view the collected data. And in both cases, the most obvious and simplest solution arises - a smartphone. Thus, the idea of ​​distributed sensors turns the smartphone into a center of the mobile mini-universe. Like a star around which various celestial bodies revolve, falling into the field of its attraction and leaving it. Imagine that we will be surrounded by ordinary things containing sensors that are invisible to us. Using a smartphone, it would be possible to find out what hidden measurement capabilities have certain objects, use them at your discretion and save the results. That is, a smartphone becomes a kind of key that opens for us a “hidden” level of the material world around. And not just a means of obtaining data, but, if desired, a full member of this system. For example, distributed sensors could not only fully take on the measurement function, but would also supplement, refine the data recorded by the smartphone itself. For example, shoes with sensors would help more accurately measure the walking speed of the wearer in conditions of unstable reception of GPS signals and base stations.

    What do you think about this? Would you like to have things, completely ordinary, familiar, “offline” objects with built-in sensors to collect various information about your physical and psychological state? What exactly would you like to know, measure with their help?

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