Apple has applied for a patent for a vital signs monitoring system that is likely to provide sensor data to the company’s HealthKit and ResearchKit products that reside on iPhones. Principle 23 – Feedback
Whereas typical vital signs monitoring involves attaching sensors directly to a patient and only being able to monitor that one patient, one of the examples described in the filing is a bed sheet with sensors built in. By segmenting the sheet into several zones (Principle 1 – Segmentation) and merging (Principle 5 – Merging) several different types of sensors in each zone, measuring capacitance, temperature, acceleration, impedance and piezoelectric mechanical stress.
This segmentation and merging will allow software to make inferences about the number of bed occupants and their health and activity without expensive or bulky equipment, and even permit patients who would otherwise need hospital stays to remain properly monitored at home.
It strikes me that this could also integrated with HomeKit to adjust the thermostat depending on the comfort of the bed occupants. Temperature could be raised or lowered in a way that encouraged sleep and eased waking in the morning. And since you know when I get out of bed in the morning, how about firing up the coffee pot?
Although not explicitly in the patent application, this would make an awesome baby monitor.
Riffing on the idea of a sensor array embedded in fabric, similar technology could be applied to a car seat to intelligently involve its features (e.g. heating, cooling, massaging, motor adjustment) to address user discomfort and fatigue. Particularly with new power seats having so many features and adjustments (Lincoln’s 30-way seats in the Continental come to mind), applying some machine learning would be welcome as the process of adjusting by hand would be time consuming and likely less than fully optimized.