That is definitely an ambitious project but there are individuals and teams doing just that. They might even win a prize. There are two contests that address the healthcare arena. One is sponsored by Qualcomm and the other by Parallax.
The Qualcomm Tridcorder X Prize is similar to other X Prizes that are more open ended, winner-take-all competition with a $10 million prize. The Parallax microMedic 2013 National Contest has $25,000 in awards and will wrap up this year. Both look to push the envelope.
microMedic 2013 National Contest
This competition is sponsored by U.S. Army Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center, and Parallax Inc. It is based around a kit available from Parallax. There are 100 kits being given away free to qualified participants but you need to apply by July 31, 2013 or before they run out of kits. The kit can also be purchased from Parallax.
Applications are prototypes that can compete in one of a number of somewhat open-ended categories including:
- Most Creative Use of the microMedic Contest Kit
- Best Integration of Fabrication (3D printing, CNC routing or machining, laser-cutting, shop tools)
- Best Patient Application
- Best Medical Tool or Device
- Best Medical Training and Simulation Product
- Best Wireless, Telemedicine or Robotic Application
The kits (Fig. 1) contain a range of sensors and a Parallax Propeller Board of Education with a Propeller multicore processor. The Propeller is an 8-core chip that Parallax designed (see “Eight 32-Bit Cores Take Flight In Multiprocessor Microcontroller”). It targets embedded applications that can use soft peripherals to control devices. Parallax Propellers have been used for everything from a gaming system to a flight controller for a UAV (see “How Multicore Chip Flies A Quadcopter”).
I would not be surprised to see some of these projects in other science competitions as well. Our Mercer Science and Engineering Fair is coming up in a couple weeks. A lucky student will be awarded one of the kits.
Qualcomm Tridcorder X Prize
This X Prize is a bit more ambitious and the competition runs for a little more than three years. Competitors need to create a portable device like the Star Trek Tricoreder that is capable of capturing key health metrics and diagnosing a set of 15 diseases. The metrics may include such things such as blood pressure, respiratory rate, and temperature. In theory the solutions should:
- Diagnose diseases
- Provide ongoing metrics of health (vitals)
- Allow monitoring or continuous use of sensors to diagnose and measure health
- Provide awareness of health state
- Give confirmation that everything is ok with a consumer
- Notify that something is not ok (a "check engine light")
This competition targets teams and there is a hefty registration fee. Only the five highest scoring teams from the consumer experience evaluation will be eligible to win. There will be up to three winners. The emphasis is on consumer use and adoption in addition to the technical requires.
The designs need to collect large volumes of data. It can use a combination of wireless sensors, imaging technologies, and portable, non-invasive laboratory replacements.
The competition will wrap up around 2015.
Healthcare is a big business and reducing costs while improving capability is a goal that will benefit everyone. Hopefully these and other competitions will lead to products that we can all use and afford.