Exploring Connected Health: AT&T Foundry Intern Develops a Novel Communications Tool to Keep the Elderly Independent

May 11, 2017

The result of this station is an experience that is tailored to the individual. Our goal was a user experience on a more personal level with the utilization of video and audio cues. ~ Camden Krupala, AT&T Foundry Intern & Electrical Engineering Major, The University of Texas at Dallas 

AT&T Foundry Director Craig Lee 

Craig: We all know someone who’s aging and may require medication daily, regular check-ups and monitoring, but is still able to live independently.

One of my areas of interest is health care at home. This is a main focus at the AT&T Foundry for Connected Health in Houston.

Innovative connected health solutions can empower people to take control of their health care outside the hospital, doctor’s office or a care facility. Families often prefer to stay in their own home and maintain independence for as long as possible, or “aging in place.”

In the home/aftercare section at the Houston AT&T Foundry, the team explores how connectivity can play a role in letting seniors to stay independent and in own homes longer. Connectivity gives instant access to care teams, emergency services and loved ones. This lets others keep an eye on them, no matter where they are.

Last fall, the Internet of Things (IoT) AT&T Foundry in Plano, Texas began a collaborative effort with senior design students at The University of Texas at Dallas. The internship requires a year-long team capstone project to solve a local industry need.

One of the students, Camden Krupala, and his school mates brainstormed on the white board just like our customers do in order to discover a good idea for their project.

Intern Camden Krupala

Camden: Following the white board session, we weren’t really keen on our team’s initial ideas. Craig shared that he had an idea for health care professionals to track connected health data. We really liked it, and decided that would be our capstone project for the year.

We jumped right in on what would become the “connected health station.” The design approach was a very important aspect for the team because we had many goals to meet.

Though we are all electrical engineering majors on my team, the project by nature did not have a singular focus area in engineering. Despite that we were able to overcome the challenges that came out of such a broad project. The “connected health station” needed to be familiar and comfortable. We also wanted the home health monitor device to be as good as what you get in a hospital. It had to look and feel like a piece of furniture – something that people would want in their home. This required extra care during the first semester when we built out the initial shell of the station. Selecting wood and plastic over metal gave it a more cozy feel. Neutral-colored paint and fabric ensured it would appeal to many people. The foam and backrest gave support for the individuals’ posture while maximizing comfort.

We made the device recognizable. And we designed it for convenience and comfort. When people see it, they immediately understand its functionality.

The “connected health station” uses the same technologies used in routine checkups.  We wanted to develop a device that monitored measurements taken during a doctor visit.

The station needed to be an easy-to-use, automated device. Automation required custom-designed boards and firmware to interact with hardware modules and sensors.

Instead of using a robotic and unfamiliar computer generated voice, we used a pre-recorded video and audio cue for the user. A family member or loved one can record the video to make the interaction more familiar. To simulate this experience, we recorded a group member and created a variety of natural responses and actions.

These extra functions let people connect with both their loved ones and medical professionals in a way that required no setup or software installation. It also meant no confusing controls for the user.

On April 28, our team competed at The University of Texas at Dallas Design Expo for engineering students, and the station got rave reviews.

The “connected health station” is a tool that lets health professionals and loved ones measure, track and collect medical data easily. But it also gives our elderly loved ones the independence they desire.

(L to R): Connected Health Station Design Team – Camden Krupala, Reginald Schroeder, and Sigrid Schneider compete at the UT Design Expo for engineering students, April 28, 2017.

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