Telemedicine: AMULET

Lead Institution: Dartmouth

Project Leader: David Kotz

Research Progress

  • Abstract
    While the potential benefits of mobile health (“mHealth”) technology include better health, more effective healthcare, and reduced cost, this technology also poses significant security and privacy challenges. In this project we are developing Amulet, a mHealth architecture that provides strong security and privacy guarantees while remaining easy to use.

  • Focus of the research/Market need for this project
    The academic literature includes a wide investigation of mHealth-related concepts. Each of these projects has characteristics that are desirable for Amulet; however, none of them provide a programming model for third-party developers to create new mHealth apps. A few projects closely related to Amulet include ETH Zurich’s Amon, Stanford’s Lifeguard, MIT’s LiveNet, and Harvard’s CodeBlue. We concluded that no existing research platform meets our goals for Amulet nor provides a suitable starting point for Amulet.

    While many of the previously mentioned projects and prototypes are not yet ready for third-party development, we also assessed the potential of 21 commercially available activity trackers and “smart watches” (such as Bandu, BodyMedia, Fitbit, Jawbone, Nike Fuelband, Misfit Shine, MetaWatch, and Pebble) as suitable hardware platforms for Amulet. While more mature than the research prototypes discussed above, most require the presence of a smartphone to analyze sensor data, and few are able to interface with external sensors; the Android-based Motorola MotoActv is a noteworthy exception. With both Bluetooth and ANT radios, the MotoActv is able to communicate with external sensors; however, it is not designed to allow third-party developers to create new mHealth applications. The I’m Watch, Pebble and Galaxy Gear are all dependent on a smartphone for processing sensor data; we target continuous-use models that can work even when the smartphone is not present.

  • Project Aims/Goals
    We had three fundamental goals, as follows:

    • Consistently present. Critical mHealth applications must be present to achieve their purpose, such as monitoring for irregular cardiac activity or detecting an elderly person’s fall. Even non-critical applications may be effective only if they are consistently present with the user, such as activity tracking or behavioral monitoring. The application device should be attached to the individual, wearable for hours or days, so our design must be small enough to fit into a wearable form factor.

    • Secure and highly available. The sensitivity of health information requires a platform that can secure computation and communication to protect the privacy of personal information and the integrity of sensor data and actuator commands. Furthermore, critical mHealth applications must be available when needed. To do so, the application-hosting device must survive long periods between charges, despite its small size.

    • Programmable. The Amulet is meant to break the current ‘stovepipe’ model in which each application has its own set of sensors and actuators and network connectivity. The Amulet provides a common platform that can serve multiple applications, so it must have an open programming model and run simultaneous applications developed by independent third parties.

  • Key Conclusions/Significant Findings/Milestones reached/Deliverables
    We designed and built an open ultra-low-power hardware platform to support our architecture. From the lessons learned in that first prototype, and with additional support from the National Science Foundation, we are now building a second prototype that is wearable. We demonstrated that Amulet’s programming model allows multiple independently-developed realistic applications to run simultaneously and efficiently.

  • Materials Available for Other Investigators/interested parties
    At this time, we are able to share peer-reviewed papers and a patent application; later we plan to open the software and hardware for use by the research community.

  • Market entry strategies
    We filed a patent application for Amulet in December 2012 and have received several inquiries from interested parties in industry. We plan to show a demo of the Amulet to a large public audience at the USA Science Festival in Washington DC in late April 2014.