Intel smart watches and big data to fight Parkinson’s

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Michael J Fox’s Parkinson’s disease research foundation is joining forces with Intel to fight the disorder with the use of big data and technology. This could transform research into the degenerative neurological disorder.

Michael J Fox, the Back to the Future actor, has suffered from the disorder since 1991. He started the non-profit called Michael J Fox Foundation during 2000, with the aim to raise funds to eliminate Parkinson’s. This foundation has to date granted more than $450m to global researchers.

Currently, patients are evaluated by doctors during periodic appointments. Many believe that is not a good monitoring system for the seven-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day disease.

The CEO of The Michael J Fox Foundation, Todd Sherer, said that Parkinson’s is still being monitored in a similar fashion to when it was first described by Dr James Parkinson during 1817. He said that data science and computing that can be worn holds potential for the transformation of capturing and measuring the actual experience of the disease by a patient. It also offers huge facilities for diagnosis, drug development and treatment.

During the first part of this year, the foundation, in combination with Intel, launched a study to assess three wearable devices to determine how well they could track measurable features of the disorder, such as frequency and slowness of movement. The tests assessed both sufferers and non-sufferers of the disorder. The devices were required to be worn for several years by the participants.

Intel engineers are currently in the process of analysing the data obtained from the devices. They are set to develop algorithms to aid in the measurement of symptoms and the progression of the disease.

During March, Intel purchased Basis Science, a health and wellness wearable technology company. Their line of smart watches, Basis, are said to be the most advanced health trackers in this industry as it is able to track body movement and heart rate patterns, along with monitoring skin temperature and perspiration.

The algorithms will be transferred to a mobile app which will analyse the data from the patient’s movements whilst wearing the Basis smart watch. The watch is able to capture a maximum of 300 observations per second, and allows the patient to input information regarding medications taken and their mood.

The general manager of Intel’s Big Data Solutions Group, Ron Kasabian, said the platform supports an analytics application which was designed by Intel and is capable of processing and detecting data changes in real time.

He said that by detecting deviations and changes in data, it is able to offer researchers a method whereby the progression of the disease can be measured in an objective manner.

The Michael J Fox Foundation is funding the clinical trials and is currently recruiting for volunteers across the United States. They are looking for people who have Parkinson’s, as well as those who do not, to use the smart watches from autumn this year.

Image Credit: Jeremy Atkinson

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