Talk about health care on the go. Ford Motor Co. is driving into the health IT world with in-car systems that will monitor heart rate, glucose levels and other symptoms of chronic illness and alert drivers to seek treatment.
The Detroit automaker's health and wellness research portfolio includes a seat with six sets of electrodes to sense heart activity, a continuous glucose monitoring device, and localized information on pollen counts and UV indexes. It also is working with mobile-health company WellDoc to provide health-coaching services through Ford's in-car SYNC system.
"Health and wellness provides a tremendous opportunity for Ford to provide peace of mind and a personal benefit to drivers and passengers while they are in our vehicles," says Gary Strumolo, Ford's global manager for interiors, infotainment, health and wellness research. "As more and more devices and technologies lend themselves to such connectivity in the car, it is our responsibility, our philosophy, to examine those possibilities and open our doors to industry relationships that can help us do it intelligently, efficiently and economically."
Ford researchers are teaming with Bluetooth and mobile health device manufacturers. Strumulo says some apps, such as an allergy alert from SDI Health, could be implemented fairly quickly, since it is an existing smartphone app. Ford would need to develop voice-controlled access through SYNC.
Other projects are longer-term, such as the heart-monitor seat. Ford and its research partners in Germany are looking at possibly including links to remote medical services and vehicle safety system, as well as alerting drivers of imminent heart attack, says Achim Lindner, medical officer for the Ford European Research and Innovation Center in Aachen, Germany. Early research shows the electrodes can receive signals through 10 layers of cotton, Lindner says.
Ford is also researching technologies to improve driver alertness by reducing stress, the company says.