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Smart Watch for Epilepsy Patients Issues Mobile Alerts

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Originally on

This smart watch doesn’t track steps or heart rate or sleep patterns. And it’s not something you’d necessarily want to wear.


Originally on

This smart watch doesn’t track steps or heart rate or sleep patterns. And it’s not something you’d necessarily want to wear.

But it’s helping people with epilepsy, their families and their caretakers have some peace of mind.

The watch contains a GPS module and a sensor so that it continuously monitors someone for abnormal shaking motions that may be indicative of a seizure. When it detects that kind of movement, it sends mobile alerts to family members or caretakers who could rush to help the person, if necessary.

The idea for the Smart Monitor actually started as something completely different. Founder Anoo Nathan had co-founded a video analytics company that created a way to passively monitor video to detect certain actions, like intrusion into a secure area. In that process, she heard numerous requests for such a technology to monitor sick children or elderly parents at night. About four years ago, she took that concept to Stanford University, which gave the newly formed Smart Monitor some sample videos of seizures to test its algorithm.

It turns out that video wasn’t so useful; it was hard to detect movements of someone laying under sheets and blankets. A better product, her team reasoned, would be a portable, wearable device that worn on the extremities, where seizures manifest.

So Smart Monitor went a different direction. They developed what’s now the SmartWatch and tested it at Stanford with 40 adult patients, where it demonstrated high accuracy in detecting movements associated with seizures. More recently, it’s also been tested in pediatric patients, where it did not miss one seizure in more than 500 hours of testing, and detected only one false positive.

The company is careful not to make any medical claims, though, as it has not applied for FDA clearance. Nathan said that is on the company’s roadmap, hopefully for later this year.

For now, the SmartWatch is on the market as a consumer device that detects abnormal shaking motions and issues alerts when it does. When abnormal movement is detected, the watch vibrates lightly and sends notifications to caregiver or loved one’s smartphone via text and call. The text message contains the time and the GPS location of the person wearing the watch and is delivered within seconds of detection. The watch also has a panic button that users can push at any time in an emergency.

Meanwhile, data from all of the watch’s activity is collected and stored on a cloud-based server, which Nathan said is an important component for clinicians. Patients usually self-report seizure activity, but may not do so accurately. “For people treating this condition, having this information is huge,” Nathan said.

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