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Friday, December 28, 2012

Putting the Tricorder Together

I have been following the Qualcomm Tricorder Xprize and would now like to try to put on one page, some of the features that could come together. To begin, the Qualcomm Tricorder rules for the form and function. It should:

  • capture key health metrics (i.e. blood pressure, respiratory rate, and temperature) and diagnosing a set of 15 diseases
  • be able to collect large volumes of data from ongoing measurement of health states through a combination of wireless sensors, imaging technologies, and portable, non-invasive laboratory replacements
  • be no greater than 5 pounds (can have any design shape or physical appearance, i.e.teams may use sensors that are attached to a phone-like control unit, fastened individually to the consumer, or kept apart and reserved for occasional use or home monitoring. Similarly, teams may create a tool that has a large screen, a small screen, or perhaps even no screen (audio only).
  • systems should store and share consumer information, which must be accessible remotely via the Internet
  • be safe from electrical energy, thermal energy, chemical exposures, needles, lancets, and infection.
So what this suggests to me is that it doesn't have to be or even look like a smartphone. As we know, many applications currently available can fit the smartphone. It might be better to start imagining something like the first McIntosh computer. Steve Wozniak was influenced by the Home Brew Computer club in San Francisco in those days. He wanted the McIntosh to have up to 11 ports in order to be compatible with the other devices created by computer enthusiasts. I think the Tricorder should also be able to port out to many devices. The model I have in mind is the backpack carried by the Emergency First Response Team at our university. This is a kit equipped to take one to the top of the Himalayas! Bringing that down to 5 pounds will be a chore. That is where  some of the ideas of the "wearable computer" experts like Steve Mann might be helpful.

Smartphone Devices
Smartphone Internet Applications
  • clinical decision support (Dr. Watson) internet AI - Virtual Nurse (Senstore)
  • integrated digital pathology internet connection
  • connection to PHR/EMR/EHR of patient
  • telemedicine and video consultation
Several of the smartphone application developers will enter the Qualcomm Tricorder prize (Scanadu and Senstore are two it would appear). You'd really have to look at what the 15 diseases that need to be diagnosed are. A lot of them might be diagnosable just from a video telemedicine consult, but I think the contest is going to be tougher than that.

What I am now interested in is a non-smartphone form and function - possibly a wearable computer that either the care provider and/or the patient both wear or share. This device in turn would be able to port out to as many mobile medical devices as possible.

Suddenly, this Tricorder competition looks doable! The real problem is going to be, as the Qualcomm Tricorder Prize website says: "Teams will have to consider tradeoffs amongst weight, functionality, power requirements, battery life, screen resolution, AI engine location, diagnosis capability, end consumer cost, and so on." Some team is going to be able to create a device that will cost less than an iPad Mini, or even more like a kindle.

I am going to add to and revise this from time to time.