WPI Telemedicine Research Team Completes National Tour

Faculty Showcase Research in Colorado, Texas and the White House

Contact: WPI Media Relations, +1-508-831-5706

WORCESTER, Mass. -- June 17, 2005 -- The telemedicine research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has had a busy spring after being invited to showcase its research at exclusive events around the country. The invitations came from the U.S. Army's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) at Fort Detrick, Md., which is overseeing the federally funded research at WPI -- a real-time troop monitoring system using new sensor, ultrasound and wireless communications technologies to remotely monitor health status and assess injuries. A veritable "spring tour," the WPI team was invited to demonstrate its technology in Denver, Arlington, Texas, and Washington, D.C.

The research project is led by a multidisciplinary team of four WPI faculty researchers, who are part of the Center for Untethered Medicine at the university's Bioengineering Institute. Yitzhak Mendelson, associate professor of biomedical engineering, is pursuing the development of advanced physiological sensors. Peder C. Pedersen, professor of electrical and computer engineering, is developing mobile, wearable ultrasound scanners. R. James Duckworth, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, is involved with the system design and implementation of both a pulse oximeter and wearable ultrasound system. William R. Michalson, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, is creating communication systems for transmitting the physiological sensor data, and ultrasound images, in addition to locating military personnel and medical patients within a coverage area.

The sequence of trips began in Washington, D.C., in early February at an event organized by the White House Medical Unit. The meeting was part of a gathering of medical directors from numerous government branches and agencies to showcase the latest breakthroughs in medical advanced technologies. At the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House, the WPI team demonstrated its complete, three-part integrated telemedicine system -- from physiological sensor monitoring for remote triage, to ultrasound scanning with a wearable voice-controlled system, to communication with an ad-hoc wireless network.

In March, the team traveled to Arlington, Texas, to present and exhibit at the 2005 World's Best Technology Conference (WBT05). The WBT05 is a national competition showcasing technologies developed at the nation's top universities, federal labs, and federally supported research and development institutions, and private companies. This elite event showcases new, cutting-edge, first-to-market technologies before the world's leading seed investors, venture capitalists and Fortune 500 licensing experts. Michalson and Pedersen were also selected to present at the conference after passing a rigorous national screening panel of venture investors and Fortune 500 licensing experts.

Then in April, the team was off to Denver for ATA 2005 -- the 10th Annual Meeting and Exposition of the American Telemedicine Association. It is the world's largest scientific meeting and exposition focusing exclusively on telemedicine, and the premiere forum for the health care industry to discuss clinical and business issues related to telemedicine. The WPI research team showcased its three-part telemedicine system, and was invited to give presentations on the ultrasound and wireless communications components to attendees from medical device manufacturers, system developers, communications and technology companies, and medical networking consultants.

Mendelson's research into advanced physiological sensors is developing small, wristwatch-size, wireless sensors to monitor vital signs of soldiers in real time during military operations and training, and alert medics and field commanders when problems arise. The integrated sensor will measure pulse rate, blood oxygenation, breathing rate, and body activity. To extend battery life, the sensors use low-power LEDs surrounded by a ring of highly sensitive light detectors. Armed with this type of information, commanders will be much better equipped to assess risk to their forces, plan operations, and tailor logistic support for rations and water. The sensors also have exciting civilian applications -- remote collection of vital signs data from firefighters and nursing home patients.

Pedersen's research into a lightweight ultrasound system has led to a wearable scanner, which can be used outdoors or during transport. Instead of bringing the soldier to the imaging system, the imaging system can now come to the injured soldier. The current prototype is built around the Terason 2000 scanner, and it is contained in a vest. In addition, a patentable 3-D imaging capability is being added to the system. It has a communications capability for two-way voice and the transmission of scanned images to enable remote triage. The ultrasound system is scheduled to undergo clinical trials at Fort Lewis, Wash., this summer, followed by trials under field conditions at Fort Irwin, Calif.

Duckworth is working with Mendelson on the design and construction of the next generation of wireless physiological sensors. His expertise with battery powered embedded systems is allowing a much smaller, but longer life, sensor to be achieved. Duckworth's computer systems experience is also being used to design and build the next generation of wearable ultrasound scanner systems. Michalson's part of the system works to locate, monitor, and assess the status of troops anywhere within the system coverage area at any time. This communication system integrates Mendelson's sensor technologies for real-time troop status monitoring, and Pedersen's ultrasound imaging system for improving remote injury assessment via a common wireless network. Such a system facilitates remote triage, improves casualty status assessment, and creates positioning networks for more efficient troop location and identification. Its bi-directional sensor communication functionality signals medics in the event of wounding on the battlefield.