Internship in Australia (Chapter 4 — Devices)

So on Tuesday 6th June, I met with my supervisor (again) and we started discussing our project. First, he asked me to describe the project’s idea as he didn’t know the details until now.

The project is about Healthcare dashboard that would collect information from smart devices and hospital information, and then display them so that they are easily monitored remotely. This would be a part of a smart healthcare system that will reduce the need to go to hospitals for patients. Doctors or caretakers can look at the information gathered from the smart devices worn by patients at home and see the trends, and notify if something is out of order.

In order to achieve this, we will need to find a suitable smart device that is available and can track the information we want. So my supervisor told me to explore the devices available in the market now, see what they can do, and if it is possible to access the data they collected.

So for the next couple of days I looked up many devices and learned about their features, functions, and their API (Application Programming Interface) that exposes the data they track. I also looked at the possibility of using these devices in a smart healthcare system.

One of the most famous smart device designed to track health and fitness would be Fitbit. Fitbit actually have a lot of devices, each with their own uses but the most interesting one is their smart fitness wristband/watches. Most of them can track user’s activities, steps, sleep and so on. Some version can track heart rate, which is a valuable information for tracking health and wellness. So I focus on those one most. I looked at their API, and found out that they open most of their information via API for developers to use. The Fitbit’s API is RESTful, which mean we can use HTTPS protocol to access the API from any platform.

The next one I looked was Apple Watch, while Apple Watch is a smart watch, and therefore can do many other things not related to health and fitness, in this category it is not quite any different from Fitbit. It offers almost exactly the same features like heart rate, activities, steps. However, on the API part it is quite lacking. Apple Watch only works best with iOS, and therefore you can only get the data with iOS App on an iPhone. Apple’s approach on integrity of its ecosystem reduces the possibility of adopting the device to be a part of other systems unless your system is going to be composed of solely Apple products. Also, Apple Watch will only start to monitor heart rate when a workout session is explicitly started, either by program or by user. This make it not a good option for real time, continuous monitoring.

I heard from my senior about Jawbone, so I looked it up as the next one. They also offer a sport band similar to Fitbit, and the features are relatively the same. It also offer a pretty good REST API just like Fitbit. However, the data it exposes is not the same. Jawbone does not support accessing real time intraday heart rate data, so it would not be a good choice.

Next I looked up iHealth, also recommended by my senior at the department. iHealth is actually a brand name with a range of devices, most of them are about healthcare. They have different devices for measuring blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose, and many more. iHealth also has standard REST API like many others, though I haven’t look deep into their API yet about the data it exposes.

The last device I randomly found about while searching is called Hexoskin. It is a smart shirt and has many different sensors for monitoring many important health information such as Electrocardiogram (ECG), Respiratory rate, and can also track movements or activities. The developer also offer REST API, but I am not certain yet about the details.

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