Public Health Assisting Smart Technologies (PHAST)

CITRIS researchers are creating smart devices that promote awareness and understanding of personal activity spaces and how those spaces affect people’s health. The wearable devices will integrate data-logging global positioning system receivers with personal and environmental sensors.  The data that these sensors provide can be used to address major public health problems, such as the relationship between physical exercise and obesity, social interaction and the spread of infectious diseases, and assessment of small-scale variations in exposures to airborne pollution. Such information has the potential to improve public health by altering environmental policies, community understanding and perceptions, and individual behaviors.


Research on wearable computers has demonstrated the feasibility of designing purpose-built portable devices to collect personal data. For example, one health-related device is a wearable sensor for personal monitoring of vital signs and reporting of this data via wireless communication in case of emergencies.


From a participant’s perspective, dosimeters are often acceptable because they are typically small devices that do not interfere with their normal activities. Recent research has explored the context behind exposures, by considering exposures in time and by location, by using the global positioning system (GPS). Such studies include exposures to pesticides, air pollutants, more general exposure, and most recently by our group, to assess activity associated with parasitic disease transmission.


Next Steps:

PHAST will develop linkages between public health and engineering faculty, students, and industry through the co-development of a core set of geo-positioning prototype sensor devices, field testing of these devices, and joint exploration of how these may be applied to major public health problems.