Until recently, in-car health was not something you heard much about. However, as we spend more time in our cars, and as people become more involved with monitoring their own health, your car may become a very natural place to continue to monitor key indicators important to managing certain chronic health conditions.
Ford, Microsoft, Healthrageous and BlueMetal Architects announced an alliance to research technology to help people monitor and maintain health and wellness while on the move during the “Doctor in Your Car” keynote address at the Digital Health Summit at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
“People are spending more time in their cars, and with the tremendous growth in mobile healthcare solutions, Ford is dedicated to understanding the value of being able to connect to health and wellness-related services while driving,” said Gary Strumolo, manager of Infotainment, Interiors, Health and Wellness at Ford Research and Innovation. “Our connectivity platform – Ford SYNC – provides easy, voice-controlled access to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, and therefore it makes sense to research areas that are important to our customers.”
Customer research and societal trends suggest there’s a strong business case for Ford to explore opportunities in health and wellness technology, Strumolo said.
While chronic illnesses are on the rise, the number of healthcare providers has remained relatively flat, which effectively limits patient access. For this reason and others, people of all ages and from all income groups are taking a more hands-on approach to their own health and wellness.
More people now visit online health sites than go to the doctor’s office, making health and wellness the most popular activity on the Web after email and general searches.
The reasons why are not hard to understand. According to a study conducted by Pew Research:
Moreover, beginning last year, medical and healthcare was the third-fastest-growing category of smartphone apps, with more than 17,000 available for download. And by 2015, some 500 million people are expected to be using mobile healthcare apps.
Strumolo said Ford seeks to develop “the car that cares.” As people spend more time in their cars, the ability to manage health and wellness on the go becomes more important. The goal is to figure out how to extend health management into the personal vehicle in a nonintrusive fashion. The prototype system was designed by BlueMetal Architects.
Using information collected from blood pressure monitors, activity monitors and glucose meters along with behavioral data shared by the user, Healthrageous is able to help people lead healthier lifestyles by shedding unhealthy habits.
Microsoft’s contribution is to translate robotic sensory information provided by the vehicle into an application that also provides a voice and touch-screen interface, while integrating biometrical data that come from a wearable device.
Ford SYNC allows this all to be done hands-free. This is in the research phase now, and may or may not be implemented in production vehicles at some time in the future.
“This alliance signifies an important step in bringing health innovation into people’s everyday lives,” said Todd Bremner, chief technical officer for BlueMetal Architects. “Ford’s SYNC platform allows us to imagine, design and build natural user experiences leveraging voice and touch, which seamlessly bring wellness into your everyday commute.”
The system would capture biometric and vehicle data as the basis for real-time health and wellness advice and monitoring.
The driver can provide voice inputs, detailing important aspects of his or her health routine – such as the number of glasses of water consumed during the day, or what pills have been taken.
The data received from the driver are then uploaded into the HealthVault cloud, at which point they are transferred to Windows Azure. The information is processed with other health data, which are used to create graphical reports the driver can access after having left the vehicle.