IBM's fingerprint sensor monitors disease progression

Posted Dec 23, 2018 by Tim Sandle
Technology firm IBM has designed an interesting item of medical technology, designed to track the progression of disease. This is in the form of a tiny sensor. The main use will be with assessing the effectiveness of different medicines.
This undated file photo courtesy of IBM shows Watson  powered by IBM POWER7  a work-load optimized s...
This undated file photo courtesy of IBM shows Watson, powered by IBM POWER7, a work-load optimized system that can answer questions posed in natural language over a nearly unlimited range of knowledge
The new item of medical technology takes the form of a minute sensor that is designed to be positioned on a person’s fingernail. Once in place, the device is able to assess the effectiveness of different drugs administered to combat the symptoms of specific diseases, such as Parkinson’s.
The sensor sends data to a remote device that contains software which performs an analysis of the data. The data is generated as the sensor measures how the nail warps as the user grips something. Given that most activities require objects to be clasped, high volumes of data are produced for analysis.
In relation to the fingernail bending, the researchers write on the IBM website: "“It turns out that our fingernails deform — bend and move — in stereotypic ways when we use them for gripping, grasping, and even flexing and extending our fingers. his deformation is usually on the order of single digit microns and not visible to the naked eye. However, it can easily detect with strain gauge sensors. For context, a typical human hair is between 50 and 100 microns across and a red blood cell is usually less than 10 microns across."
The video below shows the device in operation:
Through the software, as TechCrunch reports simple motions, gestures, finger-writing, grip strength, and activation time, as well as more complex idioms consisting of multiple grips, are identified and quantified. Here machine learning models are used to detect tremors and other symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
The development of the sensor has been reported to the journal Scientific Reports. The research paper is titled: "Wearable Nail Deformation Sensing for Behavioral and Biomechanical Monitoring and Human-Computer Interaction."