Multifunctional scales for health monitoring

Smart bathroom scales could warn about life-threatening conditions

Image credit: Kaunas University of Technology

Lithuanian researchers are developing multifunctional scales that can monitor health markers and inform the user about potentially life-threatening conditions such as cardiac arrhythmia.

As you step on the bathroom scales while brushing your teeth every morning, it could become possible to check dozens of other health markers at the same time as monitoring your weight.

“Hospitals are fully equipped with advanced technologies for diagnosing illnesses and critical conditions but it is too expensive to use this equipment for everyday health monitoring,” says Professor Vaidotas Marozas, a researcher at Kaunas University of Technology.

“On the other hand, people do not have many devices for personal health monitoring at home, and these devices could be very practical.”

While older generations may prefer the reassurance of conventional health checks with family doctors, he says, future generations will rely more on health-monitoring technology.

Professor Marozas and his team at the institute of biomedical engineering have developed a prototype set of body composition scales. When supplemented with a tethered handlebar, the scales can measure a person’s pulse. By timing how long it takes for a pulse to travel from the heart to the feet, the scales can identify potential problems in the arteries.

“The faster the speed, the stiffer the arteries,” said Birute Paliakaite, a graduate student who is working on the project. “[This can] warn about the development of arteriosclerosis, and the latter can be the cause of increased blood pressure and other conditions.”

The researchers are in the process of adding new functions and parameters to the scales, to create a minimally invasive, all-in-one health monitoring device.

“We are continuously increasing the number of parameters that can be measured using our scales. For example, alongside arterial stiffness, the scales can also detect cardiac arrhythmia,” said Professor Marozas. “I believe that in the future, the multifunctional body composition scales will measure more than 20 various health parameters.”

The researchers are collaborating with medical professionals to integrate a new function into the scales to recognise signs of hyperkalaemia, a potentially dangerous condition marked by increased concentration of potassium in the blood.

“Our technology is less complex than that of a smartphone, which needs expensive materials and elements,” said Profesor Marozas. He expresses a belief that the household health monitoring gadget could be affordable to everyone.

“We are creating data processing algorithms, and our main resource is our intellect.”

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