CityVerve: How can the right technology optimise the potential benefits of the Internet of Things?

Author:Professor Chris Taylor

Author: Professor Chris Taylor

Professor of Medical Biophysics, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Manchester

Professor Taylor is providing essential informatics expertise to the CityVerve project team.

As partners in the CityVerve Smart City Demonstrator, the University of Manchester and Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are working with University Hospital of South Manchester to shape the future applications of the Internet of Things (IoT) to benefit society in Manchester and beyond and in ways that we have not yet even thought of.

We are working together on a use case exploring how IoT technology can help patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to manage their own condition better and we are now exploring the best sensor technologies for the project, working with delivery partner SmartGateways.

We are drawing on the expertise of our technology partners to identify potential technology elements, as well as on the first-hand experience of our clinical colleagues to assess which of these technologies are essential to what we are trying to achieve (and which are perhaps only desirable). In addition, and perhaps most importantly, we’re listening to patients’ views about the technology – because one of our main aims is to demonstrate that IoT interventions are useful and acceptable.

We will explore how IoT technology can monitor the behaviour of people with mild to moderate COPD (e.g. medication adherence, exercise levels) monitor their environment (e.g. air quality) and provide information to increase confidence in self-management. To do this, we are looking at:

  • sensors inside and outside of the home which will capture data (e.g. track levels of exercise);
  • a smartphone or tablet equipped with apps to provide feedback (e.g. progress vs. target); and
  • a secure data platform to manage and analyse the data we collect – feeding into a co-created care plan and helping the clinical team to learn what works.

The good news is that technology has much to offer us.  The sensors we are considering are reliable; they tend to be wireless with a long battery life and can provide a clinically useful degree of accuracy. Other CityVerve themes will be also be deploying technology, which may collect and feed in data that will be useful to COPD patients.

However, there are many challenges in matching the technology to the needs of the target patient group. For example, having movement sensors in the home may not be very useful if the patients go out to work or share their home with a number of other people.

Using “smart” devices to measure when and how patients take their medication will be very helpful for these patients.  However, typically, these devices fit around the casing of the inhaler and there are 20+ types of inhalers of varying sizes and designs, and some patients may have more than one type – making the task of “smart” monitoring much more complex.

It’s a challenging project – so why are we doing it? Well, because IoT technology has the potential to make a real difference to patients with COPD – not just in one area of Manchester, but on a much wider scale. CityVerve aims to show that using IoT technology in this way is scalable – people with COPD across the whole of Greater Manchester could benefit from it, that it is replicable – people in other cities across the world could learn from us how IoT can help their COPD patients – and above all that it is sustainable – we all want CityVerve to leave a legacy that matters.

For further information about CityVerve, visit their website and follow the project on Twitter (@CityVerve).